Boston, Mass., November 21, 2019 – The American Cancer Society (ACS), National Football League (NFL) and the New England Patriots have awarded a grant to Cambridge Health Alliance to address lung cancer mortality by increasing screenings and supporting smoking cessation efforts. The grant funding was made possible through ACS's partnership with the NFL and the league's Crucial Catch campaign.
The grants are the latest in ACS's Community Health Advocates Implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program, which provides funding opportunities as part of the ACS's commitment to reduce cancer disparities. Cambridge Health Alliance will receive $125,000 over a two-year period. The grant is one of eight being awarded nationwide and is the first time the Crucial Catch program has expanded to address lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, responsible for about 1 in 4 cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women but takes more lives than any other cancer. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The ACS estimates there will be about 228,150 new lung cancer cases and 142,670 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2019, and of those 5,150 new cases and 2,920 deaths are anticipated to be in Massachusetts.
Lung cancer can be diagnosed in anyone, including those with no known risk factors. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of several cancers and is clearly the strongest risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for about 8 out of 10 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. For smokers, quitting is the best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer and helps lower the risk of developing several other types of cancer.
"We're proud to partner with Cambridge Health Alliance because we understand that despite modest gains in lung cancer screening at CHA during the last five years, the process for screening is not adequate for its population of more than 150,000 vulnerable and diverse patients," said Lynn Basilio, Senior Manager, Primary Care Systems, American Cancer Society. "The American Cancer Society is committed to saving lives and addressing the unequal burden for cancer, and we're thrilled for the continued support from the NFL and the New England Patriots Foundation."
"We are excited to be able to team with the American Cancer Society and do our part to tackle lung cancer," said Josh Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation. "As the leading cause of cancer death, it's important that we take the necessary steps to provide more cancer screenings to high-risk populations and ensure that people receive the appropriate care. We look forward to seeing the positive impact that this CHANGE grant will have on the Cambridge Health Alliance."
"We are very excited to have been selected for this grant funding to help support the patients and communities served by CHA, where there is a significant burden of cancer," said Alexander White, MD, Cambridge Health Alliance's chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. "Of these cancers, lung has the highest mortality and the lowest rate of early/local stage diagnosis. This suggests that access to care and regular screening for lung cancer are not where they should be and that the barriers our patients face to accessing care need to be addressed. Thanks to ACS and the Patriots Foundation, we will be able to implement targeted programming and tools for shared decision making around lung cancer screening in key high-risk communities and also enhance our current community outreach strategies."
For more than a decade, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots have been avid supporters of the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer campaign. It started with a focus on breast cancer but has since evolved to an all-encompassing cancer awareness platform. Together with the American Cancer Society, the Patriots have provided millions of dollars to areas of greatest need to support cancer screenings and early detection programs for underserved populations.
Since 2009, the NFL's Crucial Catch has raised more than $20 million in support of ACS. Funding raised since 2012 has supported ACS's CHANGE program. This program promotes health equity and addresses cancer early detection disparities through community-based cancer prevention programs that increase access to necessary cancer screenings. The program officially launched in 2012 within 17 communities across the country. Since 2012, the NFL has funded over 200 projects in safety-net, primary care systems within 100 miles of an NFL market to increase cancer awareness and access to potentially life-saving screenings. The "Crucial Catch" program expanded to include colorectal cancer, cervical cancer and HPV vaccinations in 2017. Now in 2019, the NFL/ACS partnership has further expanded to help ACS address lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the U.S. To date, 1 million individuals have been reached with education, navigation, and screening reminders.