SOLACE project milestones: January 2024

Project management and coordination (WP1)

Since the project’s start, we have ensured effective project management, coordination, decision-making, and governance mechanisms, incorporating scientific and ethics coordination. We have guided and monitored the fulfilment of the work plan, covering risk management and quality assurance to guarantee the punctuality and quality of the project’s deliverables and milestones. Coordination team meetings have been organised on a weekly basis, Management Board meetings bi-weekly, and Consortium and Steering Committee meetings biannually. These regular meetings have maintained seamless communication among project partners, facilitating effective communication. Moreover, several external boards were established, including the Stakeholder Advisory Board and the Science and Ethics Board, consisting of highly experienced international experts in the fields of lung cancer, epidemiology, ethics, representatives from health authorities, and patient advocacy groups. In addition, SOLACE has established National Expert Teams composed of lung cancer screening (LCS) experts in all EU and EEA countries and actively explored potential synergies with other initiatives and projects, such as EUCAIM, the European infrastructure for cancer image data.

Knowledge hub – evidence and guidelines, benefit-harm-balance, cost-effectiveness, new available approaches and developments (WP2)

Our main objective is the preparation, consent, and approval of evidence-based guidelines, for the entire lung cancer screening pathway. To achieve this, expert writing committees, comprising of specialists from consortium partners and external experts were formed.

A web-based knowledge hub has been developed to house the wealth of information from the project.  As part of the SOLACE Knowledge Hub, clinical data collection from all implementation pilots is being conducted through the RedCap platform. This platform allows for secure and structured data collection, and supports the creation of the SOLACE interactive dashboard, containing monthly recruitment progress of all lung cancer screening sites.

Our objectives are the cornerstone in advancing lung cancer screening initiatives, embodying a multifaceted approach to ensure comprehensive and effective programs across member states and regions.

Implementation network – status and need assessment, gap analyses, recommendation and solutions (WP3)

The first SOLACE online survey to assess the state of play of LCS in EU Member states and EEA countries was created and designed by dedicated WP3 partners in May 2023, followed by first-round semi-structured interview questions that were generated in September 2023.

The SOLACE National Expert Teams, as well as the networks of the European Society of Radiology (ESR), the European Respiratory Society (ESR) and the European Lung Foundation (ELF) were utilised to reach out to the national levels and at the same time to achieve broad dissemination of both survey formats among EU Member States and EEA countries. We are very thankful to everyone who completed the survey and helped us gather valuable data. Looking back to early November, the survey concluded with satisfactory results, encompassing feedback (more than 1.100 responses) from all 27 EU countries.

Following the closure of the survey and the completion of insightful semi-structured interviews, a public report on the state of play on LCS and the related needs of EU member states will follow.

Pilot 1:Enhancing knowledge and participation of female individuals (WP4)

Our aim is to improve women’s knowledge of and participation in lung cancer screening. Sixteen institutions in 11 European countries are involved, which will enable data to be collected from more than 10,000 women.

Different strategies are being used to invite women to take part in lung cancer screening. In Estonia and Croatia, recruitment is organised by general practitioners, who contact all potentially eligible individuals individually.

In other countries, such as France and Germany, but also Hungary and Greece, the invitation to lung cancer screening is coupled with mammography, either through collaboration with the teams in charge of breast cancer screening (France, Greece), or by placing posters in mammography centres (Germany and Hungary).

In France and Ireland, mobile CT units will be used to reach participants who are geographically distant from radiology centres.

A flyer promoting lung cancer screening for women at risk has been prepared, with the same text translated into each national language, explaining that lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in European women, with the possibility of stopping it by promoting screening that identifies the disease at an early and curable stage.

 Pilot 2: Recruitment of hard-to-reach populations (WP5)

We focus on the health equity aspect of lung cancer screening. It aims to reach hard-to-reach citizens, such as socio-economically deprived people, ethnic minority groups and people living in remote areas. Recruitment from these groups is very difficult, but critically important in lung cancer screening, because the risk factors are more prevalent in these groups than in the general population.

We developed a detailed methodology on how to enhance recruitment from these vulnerable populations. It involves health mediators and ambassadors to take part in training and to advocate for lung cancer screening. We created comprehensive educational materials and organised train-the-trainer courses to standardise training including designing the content, mode of communication and provision of smoking cessation support. Approaching people living in remote locations lung health screening trucks equipped with low dose computer tomography were envisioned and a network of centres working with them has been established to build and share good practices.

In October 2023, we started the pilot by using general invitation methods. After screening the first few hundred subjects, it is clear that few people from these hard-to-reach groups are engaged in healthcare, making us very eager to conduct the planned interventions for better lung health.

 Pilot 3: Higher risk populations (WP6)

We are focusing on higher-risk populations. This cohort includes patients – current or ex-smokers – with chronic lung diseases, cancer survivors, and those who have undergone organ transplant.

As of the end of September 2023, a comprehensive methodology has been introduced, describing the precise processes, screening procedures and patient flows within this high-risk demographic.

Recognising the importance of effective communication, SOLACE WP6 has also implemented various channels and tools. These include an information leaflet, smoking intervention leaflets, informative posters, a roll-up, a video, and an updated website. All of these materials were designed to inform patients about the chance to participate in the programme and have their lungs checked.

Interventions commenced on October 1st in select countries, marking the practical implementation of SOLACE’s targeted strategies.

Thomayer University Hospital reached out to specialised healthcare professionals dedicated to the treatment and care of these high-risk patients. These are mainly oncologists, transplant specialists and pulmonologists. However, it is note worthy that presently the patient referrals are received from various key departments across the hospital.

Evaluation, sustainability and training (WP7)

Our aim is to ensure that the project results will have a lasting impact on lung cancer screening in and beyond Europe. The WP also evaluates the project progress along a set of action-level indicators. One key achievement is the establishment of an international Evaluation Working Group. The group is composed of representatives from major societies in the lung cancer screening domain as well as external health authority representatives. The experts will be annually consulted about the project achievements and their implementation into health policies. The first meeting will take place in early 2024.

Asa first effort towards ensuring sustainability of the project efforts, we launched a survey to assess the availability of training programs in lung cancer screening for physicians. The questionnaire was sent out to national and European societies/organisations specialising in radiology, pulmonology, radiation oncology, oncology, thoracic surgery, as well as general practitioners. Results will contribute to shaping the future of European training in lung cancer screening.

Dissemination and outreach (WP8)

Our aim is to ensure that the key findings and messages from SOLACE contribute to shaping the future of lung cancer screening and are understood by all stakeholders.

Since the beginning of the project, we have provided a dissemination and communication strategy to partners, has developed the project’s logo and website and has produced a flyer targeting the general population. Furthermore, it has participated in the creation and translation of the posters and flyers of WP4 and 6 and worked with patient reviewers to ensure the messages are relevant for target audiences.

We make sure that partners are provided with communication plans that promote the project during important dates, such as Lung Cancer Awareness Month, International Day of Radiology, World Lung Day, etc. It also publishes news articles to give visibility to the project.

WP8 has reached out to experts, in order to identify relevant stakeholders from different backgrounds (patients, patient representatives, doctors, researchers ,industry representatives, etc), to ensure that the project will approach lung cancer screening from a multidimensional angle.