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Massey specialists awarded $5 million to enhance lung cancer screening and treatment for veterans

Mar 26, 2021

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A group of cancer specialists at VCU Massey Cancer Center were recently awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to implement a lung cancer screening and precision oncology program within the Central Virginia Veterans Affairs Health Care System (CVHCS).

Co-principal investigators Bhaumik Patel, M.D., Howard Li, M.D., and Michael Chang, M.D., were awarded $5 million over five years to establish a program that will make lung cancer screening and clinical trials available to racial minorities and veterans residing in rural areas. These Massey experts provide oncology services to veterans at the Richmond VA Medical Center (RICVAMC), formerly known as the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

“Approximately 40% of veterans are African American and 60% live in a rural setting; this grant funding fills a critical gap in care for veterans in central Virginia and beyond,” said Patel, chief of hematology-oncology at RICVAMC, member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at Massey and associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine.

The program has two primary objectives: 1) improve access to lung cancer screening, and 2) provide novel, state-of-the-art treatment options available to veterans via participating sites in the VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network and VA Capitol Health Care Network. Through this funding, RICVAMC is recognized as a Lung Cancer Center of Excellence and will serve as the program’s hub, with Baltimore, Hampton and Washington, D.C., VA Medical Centers serving as spoke sites.

The effort will promote lung cancer awareness and early diagnosis among veterans, and it will offer eligible veterans the ability to gain access to promising new treatment options and accelerate their accrual to clinical trials. Massey’s nationally renowned cancer experts operate in partnership with the RICVAMC to bring the highest quality of cancer care and access to clinical trials to veterans and residents in central Virginia. As a participant in Massey’s Minority/Underserved NCI Community Oncology Research Program award, the VA has access to NCI clinical research, as well as Massey-initiated cutting-edge clinical trials.

“CVHCS is in the process of establishing or upgrading various state-of-the-art research facilities to support this lung cancer screening and precision oncology program, thanks to Ronald Gartenhaus, M.D., cancer center director at RICVAMC and associate director for veteran’s health at Massey; Robert Winn, M.D., director of VCU Massey Cancer Center; M. Rhehan Khan, M.D., chief of radiology at RICVAMC; H. Davis Massey, M.D., Ph.D., chief of pathology at RICVAMC; and this grant’s co-investigators,” Patel said. 

Li, M.D., is a member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at Massey, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at RICVAMC. Chang, M.D., is a radiation oncologist at Massey and RICVAMC.

Written by: Blake Belden

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