More than half of the 60,000 individuals who undergo surgery for lung cancer in the US each year die of lung
cancer within 5 years. Although whether, or not, cancer has spread to their lymph nodes is the strongest
predictor of survival in this population, 46% of patients with no lymph node metastasis die within 5 years. We
have shown the existence of a gap between recommended lymph node examination of lung cancer and actual
practice. In our existing grant, R01 CA 172253, we successfully deployed routine use of a lymph node
specimen collection kit to improve the quality of lymph node collection during surgery. We now want to extend
this quality improvement work to overcome the demonstrated inadvertent discarding of most cancer-containing
lymph nodes present within lung resection specimens. Indeed 29% of all patients and 12% of patients ‘without
nodal metastasis’ have discarded lymph nodes involved with cancer. Such patients have a much higher than
expected death rate within 3 years. We conservatively estimate that 4800 – 6200 lives would be saved
annually if we raised the quality of pathologic nodal staging to achieve the 5-year survival rates of Japanese
patients. We have developed an improved method of retrieving lymph nodes within the lungs and now want to
study the process of implementing this new method in a diverse group of 8 community-based pathology
practices working within 13 hospitals in 7 different healthcare systems in 5 contiguous Dartmouth Hospital
Referral Regions in 3 states with the highest US lung cancer mortality rates: North MS, Eastern AR, Western
TN. From our prior work, we hypothesize that successful implementation of this novel pathology gross
dissection process will eliminate the practice of mistakenly discarding lymph nodes without examination. Our
objective is to study the process of implementing this practice change in a diverse group of pathology practices
as a step toward future national and international dissemination. We propose to achieve this through the
following Specific Aims: 1.) Train pathology staff on our novel lung dissection protocol using a stepped-wedge
cluster study design; 2.) Use the RE-AIM framework to study the implementation process; 3.) Perform a cost-
effectiveness analysis of the new method. Our study will demonstrate the practical possibility of significantly
improving lung cancer patients’ long-term survival by accurately sorting them into risk groups for various levels
of post-operative management; generate new knowledge about contextual factors that influence the spread of
new, improved clinical care standards; and help institutions learn how to achieve evidence-based quality
guidelines for staging lung cancer. Our ultimate goal is to improve lung cancer patients’ survival by improving
their placement into correct risk categories, so that those at residually high risk can be identified and given the
life-saving treatments they need.
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