Lung Cancer Screenings Trial Shows Positive Findings
By Robin Scott
Dalhart Texan, Dalhart
A National Lung Screening Trial (NSLT) that began in 2002 sponsored by National Cancer Institute (NCI) and conducted by American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) and Lung Screening Study group released interim results, which indicated for the first time, that lung cancer screening leads to the reduction in mortality rates. The final results are expected to be released soon, and based upon which, NCI will issue clinical guidelines and policy recommendations which may forever change the way doctors screen patients for lung cancer.
Dr. Srini Reddy with Texas Oncology in Amarillo, commented about the clinical trials and stated, “Fifty three thousand patients participated in the randomized trial that encompassed 33 study sites. The trial participants were aged 55 to 74 with high-risk smoking histories, and included both former and current smokers.
According to the trial, a heavy smoker is defined as at least as having a “30 pack year” history of smoking, meaning a person who has smoked a pack a day for thirty years.
Half of the participants in the trial were screened with three standard chest x-rays, one at the beginning, one year later and then another one a year after the second. The other half of the participants were screened with three low dose helical CT scans at the same interval.
“A regular CT scan uses contrast and high dose radiation, while a helical CT scan in this trial used no contrast and low dose radiation,” said Dr. Reddy.
The clinical trials were the collaboration of NCI, ACRIN and a lung-screening study group. The information gathered in the trial was monitored by an independent data monitoring board that met at least annually beginning in 2003, analyzing the findings to determine if the trial’s objectives were met. The outcomes of the 53,000 patients were compared, and in October 2010 interim results were released.
Reddy noted, “The CT scan group showed a 20 percent reduction in the mortality related to lung cancer, making this a landmark trial.”
According to Reddy, the significance of the findings is huge. Several clinical trials were conducted in the past using standard chest x-rays, none of which showed a reduction in mortality.
“The interim results were released because the primary objective of the study was met and participants in the trial who received chest x-rays only won’t be denied the CT scan and also to let the public know about the positive results,” said Reddy.
When the results of the study are analyzed further and final results released, NCI will formulate guidelines for screening for lunch cancer. Currently, no guidelines exist because no screening method has ever shown a decrease in mortality rates.
Reddy remarked, “A major implication of this study is that it will provide guidelines for screening of lung cancer in the future.”
The purpose of letting the public know about the interim findings now is to make them aware that screening with low dose helical CT may reduce the risk of death from lung cancer, especially if they are in the risk category as defined by the study.
“Right now insurance companies may not pay for screening tests, but once new guidelines are made based upon the positive findings from this study, Medicare will pick up the screening and then the insurance companies may follow.
Understanding that the CT scan screening is beneficial might cause those who can afford the screening now to get it.”
Several cancers are associated with smoking other than lung cancer and include esophagus, head and neck, cervical, bladder, pancreas, and more.
On its website, Texas Oncology states, “There is no single more important step one can take to prevent cancer than to quit cigarette or other tobacco use. Tobacco is associated with 15 different kinds of cancer and about 30 percent of all cancer deaths.”
Reddy urged, “The best way not to get lunch cancer is not to smoke or to quit smoking, and it’s never too late to quit.” He added, “Second hand smoking is equally important. That’s why it is so good that Texas has banned smoking in public places. The longer a person is exposed the greater their chances of getting cancer.”
Dr. Reddy attended medical school at Osmania Medical College in India. He completed his internship and residency at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, IL, and fellowship training in Hematology and oncology at University of Kansas medical center, KS and currently is practicing medical oncology at Texas Oncology in Amarillo.
For more information about lung cancer visit www.texasoncology.com.