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Bringing mobile low dose CT to susceptible populations in Buffalo

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | March 27, 2023
CT Mobile Imaging X-Ray
Dr. Candace Johnson Photo courtesy: Roswell Park
Since 2002, Candace Johnson has been an integral member of Roswell Park, serving as deputy director and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics for more than a decade before her appointment as president and CEO in 2015.

Recently, Dr. Johnson kicked off a new mobile lung cancer screening program supporting underserved communities. The first phase, which began in November 2022, focused on serving firefighters in Buffalo and the surrounding areas, a population that is especially susceptible to lung cancer due to the nature of their work.

HCB News checked in with Dr. Johnson to learn more about the program.
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HCB News: Can you tell us a bit about your background in healthcare, and how you came to be CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2015?
Dr. Candace Johnson: I came to Roswell Park in 2002 from the University of Pittsburgh. While there, I was a professor of pharmacology, had my own laboratory and was Deputy Director of Basic Science for their cancer center. Roswell Park intrigued me because it is a freestanding cancer center — a model that allows cancer centers to be both focused and nimble in addressing the needs of their community — and I was offered the opportunity to lead translational research and build something special. When I got to Buffalo, I established a research program and was head of translational research for our Cancer Center Core Grant, the main mechanism for cancer centers to apply for funding and special designations from the National Cancer Institute. I later became a department chair, followed by Deputy Director, and I’ve been President and CEO for about 8 years now.

HCB News: What factors contributed to the decision to get lung cancer screening services out on the road?
CJ: When you look at something like mammography — with credit to longstanding advocacy efforts — around 90% of eligible women are getting screened for breast cancer. It’s a totally different story with lung cancer screening. In New York State, only 6% of eligible individuals are getting screened. And by the time someone may be showing symptoms, lung cancers are all too often diagnosed at advanced stages and can be more difficult to treat. We need to change that! Early detection is key.

Exterior of the EDDY mobile CT trailer
We know that this is a tremendous opportunity to ramp up health equity for our region. The communities around Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, are marked by unusually high rates of lung cancer incidence and death — with the greatest impact in communities of color and rural areas. More than 36% of New York State residents living in counties with the highest rates of lung cancer deaths must drive at least an hour to get a low-dose CT scan. That is a huge obstacle, and one we can and must address.

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