We speak to Andrea Borondy Kitts, Patient Advocate, Rescue Lung Association in the US.
What led you to work in lung cancer?
I’m a retired aerospace engineer, and I decided to become a patient advocate after I lost my husband to lung cancer in 2013. Through my journey as his carer, I realised that the situation for people with lung cancer needed improving. When I started advocating, my prime objectives were to advocate to get lung cancer screening recommended and covered by insurance in the US, raise awareness about the option for lung cancer screening with clinicians and the people at risk, and help people with lung cancer and their carers become empowered and active in their own care. I went back to school and got a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) to help me be a better advocate. I try to provide a bridge between people with lung cancer, clinicians and researchers.
What does an average day look like for you?
I get up to watch the sun rise, and I work out every morning. This helps me start my day on a positive note. I work virtually and have a diverse portfolio of activities and committees I’m involved with, so every day is a little different for me.
I participate on lung cancer screening grants as a patient advisor as well as serving on a number of different boards and committees. I’m also an associate editor for the Journal of the American College of Radiology and a board member for the Rescue Lung Society.
Like many people, I start my working day by going through my emails. I usually have one or more virtual meetings, and I attend educational webinars on lung cancer and screening. I subscribe to an eclectic array of newsletters, and I often find relevant information on lung cancer that is not widely disseminated, so I ensure I post about lung cancer on Twitter and Facebook every day.
I’m on several lung cancer-specific committees, including the IASLC Screening and Early Detection subcommittee, the National Lung Cancer Roundtable Policy Action Task Group, and the American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening Steering Committee.
I am on various non-lung cancer committees, and I’m the COO of a start-up company developing an individual health platform to help people manage their health and healthcare.
Regarding lung cancer screening in the US, what is working well and what could be improved?
The US was one of the first locations to implement lung cancer screening, which has been recommended and covered by insurance nationally since early 2015. In 2021, the eligibility criteria were expanded to include more individuals at risk, especially Black Americans and women. The original criteria did not accurately identify the risk level in these populations, which led to disparities.
Unfortunately, uptake for lung cancer screening has been dismal. Nationally, less than 6% of those eligible are in a screening programme. It varies by state: the highest uptake, at 16%, is in Massachusetts, and the lowest uptake, at 1%, is in California. We also need to focus on adherence in the US, as less than 60% of those screened return for their next annual CT.
What motivated you to join the Lung Cancer Policy Network?
Although I’m in the US, I travel a lot, and I’ve always advocated for lung cancer screening in other countries. The Lung Cancer Policy Network provides an opportunity for everyone to work together to help reduce the burden of lung cancer globally, starting with screening. It’s important to share lessons learned and to help others implement effective, high-quality screening programmes.
What would you like to see from the Network as it develops?
It would be great if the Network could provide a space where members can share their guidance and expertise with those starting in lung cancer screening implementation.
What changes would you like to see in lung cancer care on a global level?
I want there to be equitable access to screening and to lung cancer treatments across the globe. I want everyone diagnosed with lung cancer to have a tumour molecular profile test to ensure they have the best treatment options from the start. I would also like to see us working towards determining the risk factors for lung cancer in people who have never smoked; 20% of lung cancers diagnosed in the US and more than 50% in some Asian populations are in people who have never smoked.
What do you think is the most interesting or exciting research finding in recent years?
Obviously, early detection of lung cancer with low-dose CT is at the top of my list. From the treatment side, it’s immunotherapy and the continued discoveries in tumour mutations and targeted treatments. When I first became aware of lung cancer, there were roughly 11 mutations that had been identified, although only two (EGFR and ALK) had FDA-approved treatments, while around 50% of mutations were unknown. Now, approximately 90% of lung cancer mutations have been identified.
Outside of work, what do you spend your time doing?
I like to watch sunrise, and I work out every day. My partner lives in Canada, so we split our time between Canada and Florida. When I’m in Florida, I go to the beach every day.
I also like to read, although I only have time to read journal articles. I do listen to audiobooks as I’m going to sleep, but it’s slow because I usually fall asleep in the first five minutes, so I have to rewind a lot.
The Lung Cancer Policy Network brings together a unique mix of experts in lung cancer from around the world, united in their passion to eliminate lung cancer as a cause of death.
We regularly share profiles of our members so that you can find out more about what led them to work in lung cancer and what changes they would like to see in lung cancer prevention and care on a global level.
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