A pioneering new EU4Health project has launched under the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which will facilitate implementation of lung cancer screening programmes across Europe.
The Strengthening the screening of Lung Cancer in Europe (SOLACE) project will break down the barriers to screening to ensure people across all social and economic groups can access it.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer. As with all cancers, survival rates are much higher when it is caught early.
Low-Dose Computed Tomography scans (LDCT) are a safe, simple, and effective way of screening for lung cancer. Multiple trials in the USA and Europe have shown that LDCT, when effectively implemented, can reduce deaths from lung cancer by 20%. The new EU Cancer Screening Recommendation invites Member States to explore the feasibility and effectiveness of LDCT to screen individuals at high risk for lung cancer. The EU-funded SOLACE project supports Member States with implementation and will provide a personalised toolbox to national and regional centres to facilitate the implementation of lung-cancer screening programmes across the EU, with a particular focus on groups that are at higher risk due to health inequalities.
The European Society of Radiology (ESR) and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) have partnered closely over the last years to highlight that lung cancer screening is supported by science and that there is compelling international scientific evidence to support the conclusion that lung cancer screening for high-risk individuals, through LDCT, is effective.
“SOLACE will provide a comprehensive guideline for initiating lung cancer screening programmes with state-of-the-art quality and high participation rates. Typical mistakes can then be avoided, and life expectancy increased,” says Hans-Ulrich Kauczor, the SOLACE project Scientific Coordinator representing the ESR.
There are many reasons that individuals at risk are not accessing lung cancer screening. Often, this relates to historical inequalities that exist with marginalised and vulnerable communities. Factors, such as smoking, can be more prevalent in these groups, further compounding their risk of lung cancer.
Ivica Belina, a member of the European Lung Foundation Lung Cancer Patient Advisory Group from Croatia, said, “One of the main problems with lung cancer is stigma. We need a change in how we relate to people suffering from lung cancer, from a societal point of view. The SOLACE project can really change that and lift the stigma for patients.”
SOLACE will have to consider many factors to facilitate the implementation of a lung cancer screening programme across the 27 countries of the EU. The first pilot programmes will be run in 10 EU countries. Many of these will serve remote communities, which pose specific challenges due to their distance from a hospital. As part of the project, one approach SOLACE will take is to provide transportation or mobile screening units.
Marie-Pierre Revel, from Assistance publique des Hôpitaux de Paris (APHP) who leads the pilot study focussing on engaging female participation in screenings, describes how a programme in France (CASCADE study, clinical trials NCT05195385) will use a variety of methods including, “media coverage, local newspapers, and flyers sent together with invitation letters for breast cancer screening” to specifically encourage women to have lung cancer screenings.
The project will be implemented by the SOLACE consortium under the scientific leadership of experts appointed by the ESR and the ERS. Patient-led organisations, European Lung Foundation and Lung Cancer Europe will provide input from the patient perspective.
Regina Beets-Tan, Chair of the ESR Board of Directors and incoming EIBIR Scientific Director, highlights the importance of the project: “We are so pleased to see that policymakers have recognized the scientific evidence and that our professional societies can now through the SOLACE project support member states in designing and implementing lung cancer screening programmes that are effective and accessible for high-risk populations. As ESR, we will make every effort to support the success of the project.”
In the long term the project will provide valuable learning on how best to implement a cost-effective screening programme for lung cancer and the best techniques for reaching out to those groups that are at particularly high risk. This will ensure that those as most risk of lung cancer have access to high quality screening in a way that fits their needs.
The SOLACE project was officially launched on 01 April 2023 and will run for 3 years.