Funding will provide CT scanners & establish RPCI as leader of national lung cancer screening registry
Congressman Brian Higgins – co-chair of the House cancer caucus – joined Roswell Park CEO Dr. Candace Johnson to announce $1.5 million in federal funding awarded to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Secured by Higgins as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget recently passed by Congress and signed into law, this funding will support the upgrade of computed tomography (CT) equipment, including the purchase of a new CT scanner, as well as efforts to promote and increase lung cancer screenings, particularly those in underserved communities.
“Many cancers, especially lung cancer, have a significantly higher survival rate if they are detected and treated early. Although many are eligible, few people receive the recommended annual lung cancer screenings,” Higgins said. “This funding, secured for Roswell Park, provides new technology for high-quality cancer screenings, and supports critical efforts to increase affordable access to lung cancer screenings to a greater number of people – especially those in underserved communities.”
Johnson is president, CEO and M&T Presidential Chair in Leadership at Roswell Park. She said, “This couldn’t be more important right now as we continue to deal with the immediate and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – including individuals who put off their cancer screenings partially due to shuttered medical offices or safety concerns. We know that screening and early detection can blunt the impact of lung cancer on people’s lives. Thanks to Congressman Higgins, we can now put those resources to work both locally and across the country.”
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer in the U.S. According to the National Cancer Institute, just about 6% of all eligible individuals receive recommended screenings each year.
In 2021, the federal government doubled the amount of people eligible for lung cancer screenings by updating the qualifications to receive annual screenings. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends all adults ages 50-80 who smoked a pack a day for 20 years or more, as well as those are current smokers or quit smoking in the past 15 years, receive an annual low-dose CT scan for lung cancer.
Higgins’ team said, “This change addresses racial disparities in lung cancer care and treatment. In the United States, Black men are 15% more likely to get diagnosed with lung cancer compared to white men. In Western New York, this percentage doubles.”
Funding for Roswell Park will provide a new CT scanner to replace one at Roswell Park’s main location on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and an additional new CT scanner for the Scott Bieler Amherst Center, expected to open in 2023. This will increase the center’s capacity to conduct screenings for lung cancer and other cancers, while improving testing technology overall.
Thanks to the money saved by this federal investment, Roswell Park will be able to create the first free, publicly available lung cancer screening registry in the nation – expanding access to lung cancer screening for those at high risk of developing the disease, while also giving federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) a more inclusive data set regarding lung cancer screenings conducted across the country.
Higgins’ team said, “In producing the nation’s first publicly available lung cancer registry, Roswell Park will serve as a national leader, creating the first quality measures for lung cancer screenings. Overall, this will increase access to lung cancer screening, raise screening and compliance rates, and reduce health disparities in screening and lung cancer outcomes.
“The incidence of lung cancer is higher in Western New York than in the rest of the state and across the United States, with both the number of cases and the number of deaths from lung cancer higher among Blacks in Western New York than in any other racial group.
“These initiatives will help extend the benefits of existing outreach programs like the bilingual Roswell AIR (awareness, information and resources) program, which was launched last year with a grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation.”
“When we go into churches and community centers, we so often find that people don’t even know that screening programs for lung cancer are available, or what their risk level for lung cancer is,” said Nikia Clark, community relations coordinator with Roswell Park’s community outreach and education program. “Everything we can do to inform those community members most likely to be affected by lung cancer and to reduce barriers to early detection will be a life-changing, life-saving benefit for our community.”
Higgins is a long-time advocate for federal investments in lung cancer research and screening that benefit underserved communities. In February 2021, he introduced the Lung Cancer Screening Registry and Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 107), aimed at increasing access to lung cancer screening by providing grants that support the establishment and maintenance of new lung cancer screening registries. Additionally, in May he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies pushing for greater federal investments in the fight against cancer. Specifically, he urged the committee to support the expansion of the lung cancer screening registry to help address racial health disparities and deaths due to lung cancer.