The National Lung Cancer Partnership heralded the results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), released today by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), sponsor of the trial. The research, which compared low-dose spiral CT to standard chest X-ray in the early detection of lung cancer, found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among those screened with CT compared to those screened with chest X-ray.
“We welcome this announcement of the results from this landmark trial and the important new scientific information it provides about the roles of CT and X-ray in the screening and early detection of lung cancer,” said Joan Schiller, MD, president of the National Lung Cancer Partnership and chief of hematology/oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “We now have a path forward and the evidence we need to advise people about screening ? especially those at high risk for this disease. This trial is the first to look at these screening methods in a randomized controlled study, which is considered the gold standard of scientific research.”
The study, ongoing since 2002, included more than 53,000 men and women ages 55 ? 74 who were at very high risk for lung cancer. Participants had a heavy smoking history, defined as at least one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or more.
“This is important new information for people at risk for lung cancer and their health care providers,” said Regina Vidaver, Ph.D., executive director of the National Lung Cancer Partnership. “Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and people are clamoring for guidance on what they can do to find it in its earliest stage when it is more treatable. This data guides our recommendations.”
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for people to talk with their doctors about whether CT screening is right for them,” said Dr. Vidaver. “Each patient deserves an evaluation and recommendation that takes their personal situation into account.”
Participants in the trial were randomized to receive either a CT scan or chest X-ray annually for three years. 25% of the group screened by CT had abnormal findings that required further follow up, such as additional CT scans, lung biopsy and/or thoracic surgery. Further analysis is needed to determine what proportion of those abnormalities were false positive findings.
An analysis with more detailed results will be prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal within the next few months.
“These results give us clear indication of how to screen those who are known to be at high risk of the disease. However, the Partnership continues to advocate for research into additional screening methods that will identify other high risk groups without a heavy smoking history,” said Dr. Schiller.
The Partnership also promotes and directly funds needed research into improving our understanding of lung cancer, its basic biology, risk factors, and how to prevent and treat the disease, which kills more people each year than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined.
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