Specific Lung Cancer Screening and Treatment Policies Urgently Needed to Address International Disparities in Survival [ELCC 2022 Press Release]

LUGANO, Switzerland – A consensus reached by a lung clinical community within the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), (1) presented at the European Lung Cancer Congress (ELCC), 30 March – 2 April 2022, has highlighted international disparities in management and outcomes of patients with lung cancer in high-income countries, and has provided a roadmap of key actions that should be taken to homogenise practices, help enable earlier diagnosis and offer equitable access to care.  

The ICBP is a collaboration bringing together clinicians, policymakers, researchers and data experts (2) to measure and understand international variation in cancer incidence and outcomes. For lung cancer, the ICBP SURVMARK-2 project commissioned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to benchmark cancer survival had previously revealed that variation in survival was greatest in early-stage disease.  

A research effort subsequently led by the ICBP in-house research team based at Cancer Research UK aimed to gain insight into the differences in clinical practice and treatment that could help explain these disparities between countries. “We interviewed nine key informants from multidisciplinary teams in ICBP countries. Leveraging a strong network of doctors with both clinical expertise and experience in auditing and policy advisory roles, a consensus-building effort was then launched to develop a roadmap for optimising lung cancer care from an international perspective,” said author Charlotte Lynch, Cancer Research UK, London, explaining the process through which five calls to action and 13 good practice points were defined reaching 100% consensus.   

According to the project’s lead clinician Dr. Christian Finley, St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, there is recognition that delayed diagnosis continues to be a widespread problem in a disease setting where the line between curative and non-curative treatment is easily crossed. “In spite of improvements in other areas like prevention, through smoking cessation initiatives and awareness campaigns, and even treatment, thanks to the arrival of more effective medicines, we have not seen survival in lung cancer improve to the same extent,” Finley explained, adding: “It is crucial that patients are diagnosed at the earliest point possible to give them the best chance of receiving curative treatment.”   

Further recommendations tackle, among others, the need for centres of excellence: “Specialised centres that are able to coordinate multidisciplinary care in a single place and streamline the patient care pathway have been seen to support improvements in outcomes in countries where they have been set up,” said Finley. 

The final call to action defined by consensus is to “recognise improvements in lung cancer care and outcomes as a priority in cancer policy”, which Lynch emphasised is a necessity in light of the inequities lung cancer patients still face in accessing care, including socio-economic inequalities, fatalistic attitudes and disease stigma. “Considering the disease’s persistently low survival even in high-income countries, it is time to focus on lung-cancer specific policies that will facilitate collaboration, drive service development and improve outcomes to the same extent as we have seen with other common cancers,” she said.  

Cautioning that the outlined approach was designed in a high-income setting and therefore cannot be universally applicable, Lynch nonetheless hopes that it will serve as the basis for conversations with advocacy bodies and policymakers, as well as help key stakeholders within individual countries better coordinate their efforts internationally in the future.  

Dr. Antonio Passaro, lung cancer expert from the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy, not involved in the work, commented: “Lung cancer remains the most aggressive solid tumour, which is why primary as well as secondary prevention through screening must be prioritised. Although a much-debated topic in recent years, a strong body of research has now shown that lung cancer screening through annual computed tomography (CT) scans in individuals with a history of smoking can improve detection rates. (3) Targeting the right populations with these interventions will be crucial to implementing screening approaches that are both efficacious and cost-effective at the national level.”  

“Future activities in cancer prevention will also need to convey that lung cancer is not exclusively related to smoking, in order to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and ensure that it does not prevent people from seeking timely care,” said Passaro.  

Notes to Editors

Please make sure to use the official name of the meeting in your reports: European Lung Cancer Congress 2022

Official Congress Hashtag:  #ELCC22

Disclaimer

This press release contains information provided by the author of the highlighted abstract and reflects the content of this abstract. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ELCC who cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Commentators quoted in the press release are required to comply with the ESMO Declaration of Interests policy and the ESMO Code of Conduct.

References

  1. Abstract 196P ‘An international consensus on actions to improve lung cancer survival: a clinical review by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP)’ will be available as ePoster as of Tuesday, 29 March 2022 at 12:00 CEST. Annals of Oncology, Volume 33 Supplement 2, April 2022
  2. International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) 
  3. F. Passiglia, M. Cinquini, L. Bertolaccini, M. Del Re, F. Facchinetti, R. Ferrara, T. Franchina, A. R. Larici, U. Malapelle, J. Menis, A. Passaro, S. Pilotto, S. Ramella, G. Rossi, R. Trisolini and S. Novello. Benefits and Harms of Lung Cancer Screening by Chest Computed Tomography: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.02574

About the European Lung Cancer Congress

ELCC brings together some of the most important organisations in the field of thoracic oncology, with the scope of disseminating education through a multidisciplinary approach and improve the practice of lung cancer specialists worldwide. ELCC is organised by ESMO (European Society for Medical Oncology) and the IASLC (International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer), along with their partner societies ESTRO (European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology), ESTS (European Society for Thoracic Surgeons) and ETOP IBCSG Partners Foundation (European Thoracic Oncology Platform and International Breast Cancer Study Group).

196P An international consensus on actions to improve lung cancer survival: a clinical review by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP)

C. Lynch1, S. Harrison2, J. Butler3, D.R. Baldwin4, P. Dawkins5, J. van der Horst6, E. Jakobsen7, J. McAleese8, A. McWilliams9, K. Redmond10, A. Swaminath11, C. Finley12 [Text Wrapping Break]1Policy, Information & Communications, Cancer Research UK, London, UK, 2Policy and Information, Cancer Research UK, London, UK, 3Gynaecology Department, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK, 4Department of Respiratory Medicine, Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham, United Kingdom, UK, 5Department of Respiratory Medicine, Middlemore Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand, 6Department of Respiratory Medicine, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK, 7Department of Thoracic Surgery, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark, 8Department of Clinical Oncology, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, UK, 9Department of Respiratory Medicine, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia, 10Department of Thoracic Surgery and Transplantation, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, 11Department of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, 12Division of Thoracic Surgery, St Joesph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Background: ICBP research demonstrates the greatest variation in lung cancer survival internationally is within early stage disease. There is a current lack of published international consensus on critical contributing components to variation in outcomes and the steps needed to optimise lung cancer services to improve the quality of options for and equitable access to treatment, and ultimately improve survival.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 9 key informants from ICBP countries. An international clinical network was established to share local clinical insights and examples of best practice. Network members suggested and rated recommendations to optimise the management of lung cancer (using a modified Delphi consensus model). Calls to action were developed as the most crucial recommendations, with Good Practice Points included to support their implementation.

Results: Five Calls to Action and thirteen Good Practice Points were developed and achieved 100% consensus. Calls to Action include (1) Implement cost-effective, clinically efficacious and equitable lung cancer screening initiatives; (2) Ensure diagnosis of lung cancer within 30 days of referral; (3) Develop Thoracic Centres of Excellence; (4) Undertake an international audit of lung cancer care; and (5) Recognise improvements in lung cancer care and outcomes as a priority in cancer policy.

Conclusions: The recommendations presented are the voice of an expert international lung cancer clinical network, and signpost key considerations for policymakers in countries within the ICBP but also in other comparable countries. These define a roadmap to help align and focus efforts in improving outcomes and management of lung cancer patients globally.

Legal entity responsible for the study: N/A

Funding: Has not received any funding

Disclosure: All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

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