North Carolina AHEC Program
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Cykert Receives Grant to Address Lung Cancer Disparities

Samuel Cykert, MD, has received a $1.8 million five-year grant from the American Cancer Society (ACS) to study “Lung Cancer Surgery: Decisions Against Life Saving Care.” Cykert, associate director of medical education for the NC AHEC Program, and clinical director of the NC Regional Extension Center for Health Information Technology, is a member of the Cecil B. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Samuel Cykert, MDLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. And while surgery to remove tumors in early stage disease remains the only reliable treatment for cure, patients don’t always move forward to surgery, especially African Americans. Such a decision has consequences. Patients who don’t undergo surgery have a median survival time of less than one year.

Cykert (photo right) explains that “the study is designed both to optimize treatment of early stage lung cancer for everyone and to narrow health disparities in lung cancer treatment.”

Cykert will lead the ACS trial to provide new knowledge about an intervention to optimize surgical rates for early stage non-small cell lung cancer and reduce disparities in the care of African American patients with this disease. He says, “We will really emphasize health literacy issues and confirm each patient’s comprehension and feelings about every step of their cancer care process. We’ll also use real time, electronic data tools to identify patients who need more help getting through the cancer care system and address barriers that result in different care for comparable patients.”

He and a UNC group of scientists recently completed a study that documented that African American patients received surgery 11 percent less compared to whites. This report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at specific factors that led to decisions against surgery. The most important results showed that a patient’s perception that communication was more difficult with lung cancer doctors was associated with lower surgical rates for all lung cancer patients. African Americans having other medical illnesses in addition to their lung cancer had surgical treatment much less frequently than white patients who had similar illnesses. The UNC team will partner with East Carolina University’s Jenkins Cancer Center and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.