STS Works to Advance Lung Cancer Policy, Patient Advocacy on Capitol Hill

Washington Scene

STS News, Summer 2013 -- The STS Strategic Plan, “Strategy for Leadership and Change,” directs the Society to strengthen its influence with Congress, regulatory agencies, and policymakers. It also encourages broader advocacy targets to include more patient-focused issues.

In response to this directive, STS has aligned with patient- and disease-focused organizations on several important advocacy issues. One example is the Society’s work with the Lung Cancer Alliance, a national non-profit organization dedicated solely to providing support and advocacy for people living with or at risk for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of US cancer deaths and cancer costs under Medicare. The American Cancer Society projects that 159,000 Americans will die from lung cancer this year—more than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. The 5-year lung cancer survival rate remains dismal at 16%.

STS has supported several lung cancer policy initiatives, including the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act. This bipartisan legislation, introduced in the 112th Congress, called for a multifaceted plan to address all aspects of lung cancer. Through a series of legislative compromises, language from the legislation was combined with the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act to form the Recalcitrant Cancer Act of 2012, which was passed by Congress and signed into law in January 2013. The Act directs the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to convene a working group and establish a scientific framework for recalcitrant cancers. Recalcitrant cancers, such as lung cancer, are defined as types of cancers that have a 5-year relative survival rate of less than 20% and are estimated to cause at least 30,000 deaths annually. NCI must submit the framework to Congress by July 2014.


STS President Douglas E. Wood, MD speaks at the “Lung Cancer Screening: What’s at Stake Now?” briefing on Capitol Hill on May 21.

More recently, STS President Douglas E. Wood, MD participated in a May 21 Congressional briefing, “Lung Cancer Screening: What’s at Stake Now?,” hosted by the Lung Cancer Alliance. The briefing focused on the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) delay in issuing a recommendation on lung cancer screening. The panelists, including Dr. Wood, discussed research from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial showing that low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening to detect early stage lung cancer can dramatically improve a patient’s chance for survival. Without screening, the majority of lung cancers will continue to be diagnosed at a late stage, when treatment options are extremely expensive and ultimately futile in almost all cases.

Dr. Wood also spoke about his experience on the Lung Cancer Screening Panel of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). He noted that while the NCCN has had lung cancer screening guidelines for 3 years, the USPSTF has yet to make a recommendation about lung cancer screening. The USPSTF’s authority was expanded under the Affordable Care Act to not only determine which preventive services will be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, but also which services will be considered an “essential health benefit,” thus mandating coverage by the health plans offered through state and federal health care exchanges.

Given the proven lifesaving benefits and cost effectiveness of CT screening, panelists asked Congress for help in persuading US Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to exercise her authority and insist on immediate action by the USPSTF.

Support this effort by:

• Writing to your representatives in Congress using capwiz.com/sts.

• Writing to Secretary Sebelius using sample text found at www.sts.org/LungScreeningLetter.

For further information, contact the STS Government Relations staff at (202) 787-1230 or advocacy [at] sts [dot] org.

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