Armed with recent evidence that a new method of testing individuals at high risk for lung cancer can detect the disease early enough to save lives, a group of Canadian experts has formed a cross-country network to determine next steps as they move toward translating those research findings into practical applications and action. In a country where lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death and where it will claim an estimated 20,000 lives in 2012, the group’s deliberations could be critical for Canadians.
Convened by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Pan-Canadian Lung Cancer Screening Network held its inaugural meeting in October 2012. The network brings together the knowledge and experience of 32 members, representing all 13 provinces and territories, in the wake of the U.S.’ National Lung Screening Trial. This significant American study found people at high risk for lung cancer who were tested for the disease using low dose computed tomography scanning (CT scanning) had a 20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer than study participants who received standard chest X-rays.
“Canada’s lung cancer community has been working together to make the implications of this study clear within the Canadian context,” says Dr. Stephen Lam, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, Principal Investigator of the Early Detection of Lung Cancer: A Pan-Canadian Study, and a member of the new network. “The clear case for the effectiveness of CT scanning means we can start to develop approaches to identifying and screening high risk populations, with the goal of detecting their cancer earlier when it can be treated more effectively.”
Steps informing the creation of the network include two national lung cancer screening forums convened by the Partnership bringing together an array of participants – from cancer program representatives and provincial ministries of health to representatives of national advocacy organizations, professional organizations and other experts.
“These forums provided an opportunity for experts to engage and exchange knowledge and experience,” says Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President, Cancer Control at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Chair of the network. “As each province begins to consider this important issue, the opportunity to learn from one another and to coordinate efforts is particularly valuable. After the two forums, it was clear that the group valued discussion on everything from potential approaches to target populations to follow-up criteria, so the stage was set for the evolution of the community into today’s network.”
Already the network is advancing its agenda and focusing on shared priorities. Over the next five years, the network will be working in partnership to develop recommendations on screening and eligibility and establish a method for evaluating program effectiveness.
“Concentrating our efforts on those specific steps underlines a real commitment and enthusiasm among members of the network,” adds Dr. Bryant. “As provinces move forward on this, their work together will accelerate the potential benefits across the country.”
1 Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012, p. 9.