Exploring the Link Between Tobacco Use and the Effectiveness of Cancer Treatment

Andrew Hyland, PhD

It’s widely accepted that quitting smoking can help prevent a number of health problems. But what impact does tobacco use have after a cancer diagnosis? Research at Roswell Park supported by your gifts is finding out more.

New evidence suggests that cancer patients who continue to use tobacco while being treated  don’t respond as well to their cancer treatment, and quitting tobacco could be just as important as what kind of chemotherapy or radiotherapy patients get to beat their disease. However, tobacco use is not routinely tracked among cancer patients, making it difficult to understand what impact it may have on survival.

Roswell Park is pilot testing a bold new program that asks patients about their tobacco use each time they visit for treatment and, for those patients who are still using, automatically refers them to a specialist to get help quitting tobacco. The early data shows that patients are having an overwhelmingly positive response to this service.

Lead investigator Andrew Hyland, PhD and his team will do a detailed analysis of who accepts help to quit tobacco and who does not in order to better tailor the program to meet patients’ needs. The research also includes a standardized follow-up assessment to evaluate how successful the program is in helping people quit tobacco.  No other cancer center has adopted a systematic approach to identify their patients who use tobacco and automatically get them help quitting.  

“The data from this project not only will help shape the kinds of programs and services patients will have access to, but will also help Roswell Park investigators compete  for larger grants to further develop this program,” said Dr. Hyland. “The ultimate goal of these efforts is to improve survival rates and quality of life for patients.”