Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health have been awarded $2.8 million from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to start lung cancer screening, care and prevention programs in underserved communities in Philadelphia.
The campaign will target low-income and high-risk populations in the city, with a goal of increasing awareness about lung cancer, promote prevention, reduce disease stigma, and introduce screening programs designed to improve care and outcomes.
“The disparities in cancer mortality in Philadelphia are unacceptable,” Stephen K. Klasko, MD, president and CEO of Jefferson, said in a press release. “As part of our commitment to our community, we want to establish greater collaboration between Jefferson Health patients, clinicians and community partners. We are grateful to Bristol-Myers Squibb for making this investment to improve the lives of Philadelphians.”
Efforts will be led by the Korman Respiratory Institute, a collaborative initiative between Jefferson Health and National Jewish Health. It also will use the combined services of Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center and the Center for Urban Health.
Philadelphia has the highest poverty scores among the 10 largest cities in the U.S. It also has the highest rate of smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer among adults.
Despite new national lung cancer screening guidelines and reimbursement programs, less than 4 percent of those eligible get screened. In Philadelphia, the problem is compounded in poorer areas, where the average family income can be well below the federal poverty level.
“Because of Jefferson’s [inner-city] location, we are already connected to some of the most medically vulnerable residents in the city, and have an immediate opportunity through our clinical base to engage those at highest risk,” said Gregory Kane, MD, and professor of pulmonary medicine at Jefferson. “We operate hospitals in neighborhoods with the highest lung cancer burden, and can reach out to minority populations at risk for lung cancer with model prevention and control program.”
This is not the first time the BMS Foundation has supported lung cancer prevention and awareness programs in the U.S.
In 2016, the Maine Medical Center received a $5 million grant to create an initiative to improve prevention, early detection and treatment of lung cancer in a state that ranks among the highest in disease incidence rates and related deaths. The gift resulted in the creation of the Maine Lung Cancer Prevention and Screening Initiative (LungCAPS), a four-year, multi-institution, multi-disciplinary collaboration. The goal was to develop the necessary infrastructure to implement and disseminate lung cancer prevention and early detection services, and to facilitate early referrals for treatment of lung cancer patients throughout the state.
In 2014, the BMS Foundation awarded $7 million to support the launch of the Kentucky LEADS Project, led by the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the Lung Cancer Alliance, another effort to reduce the incidence of lung cancer there.