In the middle of the pandemic, GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer appointed Dr. Jennifer King as their Chief Scientific Officer in May 2020. The appointment, in particular, that of Dr. King was significant because the world as we know it had/has changed in ways that continue to evolve. The lung cancer patient, survivor, advocate and medical professional community was under immense pressure for solutions— against lung cancer, and now also against COVID-19.
As President and CEO of GO2 Foundation, Laurie Fenton Ambrose said of Dr. King, “Jennifer’s scientific expertise and compassionate and patient-centered approach will skillfully guide our science and research programs, engage our medical experts, and connect with industry partners in new ways to advance more effective detection, treatment and survivorship strategies – ultimately transforming survivorship”. Dr. King leads GO2 Foundation’s scientific and research priorities using her training to lead cutting-edge research initiatives to improve the lives of those living with or those at risk for lung cancer. She holds a Ph.D. in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.S. from Duke University.
GO2 Foundation is a result of merging the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) in 2019 leading to a combined lung cancer patient advocacy experience pool of over thirty years. The GO2 Foundation Science and Research program includes a research portfolio of internal studies, collaborative partnerships, and external research funding, along with a personalized medicine program for patients and the patient-driven Lung Cancer Registry.
The Foundation’s approach is pretty straightforward—to deliver life changing information to navigate and support decisions for patients, to advance patient-centric/community-based lung cancer research, to empower and to achieve increases in federal research funding while expediting regulatory/government approval processes of new lung cancer therapies and expanding reimbursement coverage to enable equitable patient access to care. Additionally, GO2 Foundation strives to make lung cancer visible and highlighted to the general public and to reduce stigma while fostering patient and caregiver engagement.
It was an honor to speak with Dr. King as part of our Talking Cancer: Conversations with Trailblazers, Advocates, Patients and Medical Ambassadors series at our NEO Blog in 2021.
Madhushree Ghosh: What are the challenges that GO2 as an organization has faced during the pandemic and its aftermath?
Dr. Jennifer King: The pandemic was challenging for everyone, but particularly certain groups who had high levels of risk which included those diagnosed with lung cancer. We unfortunately saw high mortality rates in people who had lung cancer that were also infected with COVID-19. Consequently, GO2 Foundation in collaboration with other advocacy partners worked to put out vetted scientific information about COVID-19 that was patient-friendly and tailored to our community. We had rapid response editions of our Lung Cancer Living Room (moved entirely online instead of both live in-person and broadcasted globally like it normally would have been) and invited key experts to talk with the community.
In the aftermath, we are united with the broader cancer community in our concern that many individuals did not go to their regular screenings during the pandemic. We are actively encouraging anyone eligible for lung cancer screening to be screened so that more lung cancers are caught early.
MG: How are you highlighting patient concerns in a post-COVID world?
JK: It is our goal to meet every patient where they are and that mentality hasn't changed. People accessed information differently during COVID but we were still available with print materials, a free patient/caregiver HelpLine (1-800-298-2436 or firstname.lastname@example.org), and a heightened online presence through the website and social media. We regularly highlight issues that are important to patients across all of these channels, in our Lung Cancer Living Room, at scientific conferences, and in publications. We will continue to adapt and expand how we reach and engage members of our community—with the understanding that in some communities, simple print materials or word of mouth could still be the best method.
MG: How is GO2 changing their strategy re: clinical trial assistance?
JK: We have a free, one on one, personalized navigation program called LungMATCH where we speak to patients about the trials that would be most appropriate for them. Our outcomes suggest that this personalized approach improves the rate of conversations about clinical trials with the treatment team and rate of enrollment. We are also participating in a number of projects to raise awareness about clinical trials and to understand barriers and facilitators of trial enrollment - particularly in underrepresented minority populations.
Recent data from the FDA at ASCO 2021 showed that there were significant disparities in trials with enrolled minority patients that led to lung cancer immunotherapy drug approvals. Understanding how these drugs work in different populations is very important for proper precision medicine, so ensuring appropriate representation in clinical trials is a critical issue for GO2 Foundation.
MG: What are the issues in clinical trials and/or CDx or drug access that GO2 needs help from CROs and reference labs like NeoGenomics Laboratories, Inc.?
JK: Representation in clinical trials is very important. We also want to make sure that patients being seen in their local communities are able to access high quality care and clinical research. We are huge proponents of remote and decentralized trials that can reach any patient, as well as trials that make a concerted effort to open in community settings. There are a number of gaps in equitable access to comprehensive biomarker testing and appropriate biomarker-driven care and all stakeholders need to work together to find solutions.
MG: How has the pandemic changed how GO2 will work on patient advocacy, going forward?
JK: Really it has enhanced our work as we return to 'normal'. We are now in a growth phase. We realized that having more online access to programs like our GO2 Lung Cancer Voices Summit where patient advocates meet with their congresspeople to advocate for issues in the lung cancer space -- allowed more people to participate and more voices to be heard than we would have seen in the traditional in-person on Capitol Hill format.
This is only one of many examples, but suffice it to say we are re-examining all aspects of our work and learning from the past year where the opportunities are to expand and be able to provide more resources and services to our community.
MG: What are the few initiatives/partnerships GO2 is proud to highlight?
JK: All of our support services are fantastic. Plus a few recent initiatives: Our STRIDES initiative is looking at barriers to clinical trial participation in Black communities in the South which is in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Augusta University. The Epidemiology of Young Lung Cancer study is now open and recruiting which is a direct-to-patient decentralized study asking why people under 40 develop lung cancer. There are investigators from University of Southern California, Ohio State, and University of Hawaii along with GO2 and our partner organization, the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute.
We have also launched multiple new initiatives to target segments in our population of particularly high need - including a Small Cell Initiative and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- HelpLine 1-800-298-2436 email@example.com
- General Questions 202-463-2080 and 650-598-2857 firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know has received a cancer diagnosis and would like to be guided to a patient advocacy group or medical/diagnostics advice, please reach out to NeoGenomics at 866.776.5907.