Emerging life science company, Sanovas, Inc., released a public warning about the United States’ healthcare system currently facing a shortage of treatment resources, as Medicare‘s lung cancer screening coverage for beneficiaries deemed at-risk takes effect in 2015.
Gordon H. Downie, MD, PhD, FCCP, a pulmonologist at Northeast Texas Interventional Medicine, and one of the Company’s clinical advisers, said, “Medicare coverage has a ‘good news/bad news’ scenario to it at this time. On the one hand, screening at-risk Medicare beneficiaries with CT scans will absolutely reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer. On the other hand, our country’s healthcare system is going to be inundated with patients who have been diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, a potential order-of-magnitude spike in the diagnosis of peripheral nodules.” The important point Dr. Downie is making here is that the incoming rapid, significant increase in early-stage lung cancer diagnoses will meet an unprepared national health system.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded a National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which results, titled, “Reduced lung-cancer mortality with low-dose computed tomographic screening” are available in the August 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It concluded that screening via low-dose CT scans notably improves lung cancer survival, which would normally be considered an encouraging finding. However, a November 2014 announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on adding this method of screening to their coverage ultimately means there will be about 4 million eligible beneficiaries, all entitled to timely screening, as stipulated by law.
“What are we going to find? A boatload more cancers, but in the peripheral airways of the lungs, not in the central airways. How do we want to deal with them? That’s the question,” said Dr. Downie. “Surgery and radiation for treatment of peripheral early stage lung cancer are current standards but there are excellent alternative treatments and these certainly need to be explored. But how do you get these alternative treatments to these hard to reach peripheral locations in the lung? Of course, you need small-diameter technologies to get to the periphery of the lung and then, once you get out there, you’ve got to be able to deliver something locally and focally. What is that solution? PhotoDynamic Therapy, or P-D-T. PDT can be delivered locally and focally without having to systemically toxify the patient for a small little centimeter nodule that’s out in the periphery of the lungs and is starting to metastasize.”
Dr. Downie is certain the numbers of diagnosed peripheral lung tumors are going to skyrocket as screening for lung cancer becomes mainstream, so he is warning clinicians and specialized lung cancer care centers to prepare to administer the latest recommendations from biomedical research on how best to address early-stage lung cancer. “Challenges facing the clinician include protecting lung function in patients with already compromised abilities, optimal targeting of therapy to avoid serious injury to normal structures, real-time confirmation of clinical effectiveness, non-mutanegenic or carcinogenic tumorcidal agents, and the ability to assess for tissue hypoxia. Locally/regionally delivered and activated PDT can address all these challenges,” he added.
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