Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer in Australia. Late detection of lung cancer contributes to its low five-year survival rate as it has often progressed to a stage where treatment is more difficult by the time it is detected.
Critical mass of expertise
In late 2019, Cancer Australia opened an enquiry into a National Targeted Lung Cancer Screening Program to determine the best way to implement a national lung cancer screening program in Australia. Successfully designing such a program required bringing a range of disciplines and perspectives to the table: implementation science, artificial intelligence, health services research, health data modelling, health economics, primary care, epidemiology, radiology, respiratory medicine, nuclear medicine, thoracic surgery, nursing – and consumers.
Utilising established and respected leadership and networks, the VCCC alliance efficiently and effectively brought all of these to the table and coordinated a consensus response. A VCCC Lung Cancer Screening Interest Group galvanised a multi-disciplinary group of 24 experts from five institutions and developed a detailed plan submitted to the National Lung Cancer Screening Enquiry for the implementation of tailored lung cancer screening in Victoria.
Clinical perspectives were amalgamated with key issues identified by consumers and carers at a forum convened by the VCCC Cancer Consumer Advisory Committee. This ensured the perspectives of groups with the poorest lung cancer outcomes, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the prison population, were included in the submission.
The issues set out in the submission have become the blueprint by which Cancer Australia is assessing applications from organisations tendering for the contract to provide tailored lung cancer screening Australia-wide. The outcome of the tender process is expected in October 2020.
As a result of the VCCC’s coordination, Victoria is positioned to implement a tailored lung cancer screening program that will have direct benefits through earlier detection of lung cancer.
The VCCC’s Research and Education Lead for Lung Cancer, Associate Professor Gavin Wright, who led this initiative, is now assisting Cancer Australia with the economic modelling for the Lung Cancer Screening Enquiry.