KY LEADS Collaborative led by UK & U of L

On Thursday November 12, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and Lung Cancer Alliance announced the Kentucky LEADS (Lung Cancer. Education. Awareness. Detection. Survivorship) Collaborative, a project that will focus on reducing the burden of lung cancer in Kentucky.  Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state and its lung cancer mortality rate is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average.

The Kentucky LEADS Collaborative is a first of its kind project that brings together an interdisciplinary team of community partners and lung cancer prevention and control experts to assess novel approaches for identifying lung cancer earlier to improve survival. The project will also develop and evaluate interventions to improve quality of life and survivorship for individuals with lung cancer and their caregivers. These efforts are supported through a $7 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Bridging Cancer Care™ initiative.

“As Kentucky leads the nation in lung cancer mortality rates, we must step up to be a leader in finding solutions toward preventing, curing and coping with this destructive disease”, said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.  “I strongly support this collaborative, wide-ranging effort as it coincides with this administration’s KyHealthNow goals of reducing statewide cancer and smoking rates by 10 percent by 2019.  By working together, we can and will find a way to diminish the burden of this crisis in Kentucky.”

Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and kills more Americans than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. In Kentucky, the burden of this illness is even more dramatic and will take over 3,500 lives this year alone.

“Historically there’s not been a lot of research or effort put into lung cancer survivorship because, unfortunately, there hasn’t been much survivorship,” said Jamie Studts, PhD, associate professor of behavioral science at the University of Kentucky and director of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative. “This project is an effort across several domains to help providers, patients, caregivers and health care programs do the best job possible to achieve better care and increase lung cancer survivorship.”

One in two patients diagnosed with lung cancer will die within a year. After five years, only 16 in 100 patients will be alive. “Those are sobering statistics,” said John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “The timing of diagnosis is critical. Patients diagnosed at Stage 1 have a 57 percent chance of achieving five-year survival. That drops to 4 percent when patients have a late-stage diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of lung cancer, combined with education and patient support, is key to increased survival for patients living with lung cancer.”

The first component of the program, provider education, led by Connie Sorrell of the Kentucky Cancer Program West and Dr. Goetz Kloecker at the University of Louisville, will review the practice patterns and factors affecting referral and treatment of lung cancer patients across the state. Primary care providers play a key role in the management of lung cancer, and this component of the project will familiarize them with best practices in caring for patients who are at high risk of developing lung cancer or are diagnosed with the disease.

“It is our goal to help primary care providers throughout Kentucky to identify people at high risk of lung cancer and be aware of the significant improvements in diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer,” Kloecker said. “We will give providers evidence-based information that enables them and their patients to receive the best possible care. An important part of this is the detection of cancer at an early stage. Once the cancer is diagnosed it is important for patients to receive the most effective treatments in order to have the best chance of cure, survival and quality of life.”

Studts will lead the second component of the project, which will develop a lung cancer-specific survivorship program that promotes quality of life and well-being for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, as well as their caregivers, throughout the continuum of the disease. This will include care that addresses a combination of acute and late or long-term effects of the illness and treatment.  Studts and his team will also develop a training program for lung cancer navigators and mental health providers to sustainably administer the survivorship program to patients and caregivers statewide.

Lung cancer screening guidelines have recently changed, creating a unique opportunity to implement rigorous, statewide screening programs that can save lives. The third component of the project, led by Dr. Timothy Mullett and Dr. Jennifer Redmond Knight at the University of Kentucky, will therefore promote evidence-based prevention and early detection of lung cancer. Lung cancer is often diagnosed too late to treat because symptoms tend to emerge only after the disease has spread. For this reason, increasing high-quality lung cancer screening is critical to reducing deaths from the disease.

Lung Cancer Alliance will partner with UK on the survivorship and screening components of the project, contributing to program design, administration, communications support and dissemination.

“We are so thrilled and proud to be a partner in this unprecedented public health coalition intent on bringing heartfelt support and life-saving services to Kentucky citizens impacted by lung cancer,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Lung Cancer Alliance president & CEO.  “Such ‘can do’ attitude not only will lead to a first-ever coordinated plan of action to reduce lung cancer’s foot print in Kentucky – but will stimulate other states to follow in its shoes in the months ahead. It is truly a momentous time worth celebrating.”

Additional collaboration on this project comes from the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, the Kentucky Clinical Trials Network, UK Markey Cancer Foundation, the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and a broad range of community-based stakeholder groups, collaborators, partnering organizations, and healthcare systems throughout Kentucky and nationally.


Media contact: Mallory Powell,, (615) 828-0000