Thirty percent of people with stage 4 lung cancer don’t get treatment.
“If this was breast cancer or heart attack patients, you would say it was crazy,” Dr. Goetz Kloecker, director of thoracic medical oncology at UofL Brown Cancer Center said.
Kloecker is committed to reducing the burden of lung cancer in Kentucky. He is part of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative (which stands for Lung Cancer Education, Awareness, Detection and Survivorship), a heavily community-engaged effort forged by the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium and the Lung Cancer Alliance, and funded by a generous grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.
Kloecker leads the Provider Education component of the program, along with Connie Sorrell from the Kentucky Cancer Program West. He is working to educate primary care providers on what to do with patients who are at high risk for lung cancer, as well as the treatments and clinical trials available for those who have been diagnosed.
The Kentucky LEADS Collaborative website says “PCPs play a pivotal role in determining the care pathways for their patients who are at risk for, or diagnosed with lung cancer.”
“There is a lot of education that needs to be done on why patients choose not to be treated and why their doctors don’t refer them,” Kloecker said. “Amazingly, education and income level aren’t that strongly correlated with those who get treatment. There are other factors.”
Part of that is patient guilt. “The patient may come from a family of smokers. They’ve seen their family members die and they don’t think there is anything they can do, so some patients don’t even seek treatment,” Kloecker said.
“If we can overcome that stigma, offer help to people with this life threatening disease, and they accept it, that’s the biggest difference we can make,” he said.
Kloecker said another part is that providers aren’t aware of new treatments like Cyberknife radiation and immunotherapy, both of which can better target lung cancer.
And yet another part is misinformation about eligibility for treatment. “Even if you have kidney or heart problems, you can still be treated for lung cancer,” Kloecker said.
Learn more about the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative by visiting https://www.kentuckyleads.org/. Interactive online CMEs are available for primary care providers.
About Goetz Kloecker, MD, MBA, MSPH, FACP, Principal Investigator
Dr. Goetz Kloecker is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville Department of Medicine. He is also the Director of Thoracic Medical Oncology and the Director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program at the Brown Cancer Center. Dr. Kloecker’s clinical focus is on multi-disciplinary approaches to the treatment of thoracic cancers. He works with surgical and radiation oncologists to ensure that patients receive the most effective combination of treatment modalities and have access to the most innovative drugs for the treatment of cancer. His research interests include clinical trials of new chemotherapeutics and targeted agents, identification of barriers to treatment, observational studies and studies on supportive care. Dr. Kloecker has a strong history of collaborating with basic science researchers to facilitate translational research.