The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is recruiting 3,000 current
and former smokers for its Lung Screening Study, a year-long study of spiral
computed tomography (CT) scans for lung cancer screening. Although the study
will not determine if the scans save lives, it will evaluate the feasibility of
a larger, longer study to that end.
During September and October, six screening centers across the
country recruited 500 people each and randomly assigned them to receive either a
spiral CT scan or a chest x-ray. Researchers will first determine the
willingness of smokers and former smokers to participate in a randomized study.
They will then compare the lung cancer detection rate of each test, measure how
much and what kind of medical follow-up is needed for positive or ambiguous
results, and track how frequently participants receive spiral CT scans outside
of the study.
Follow-up on Scans
All this knowledge is crucial for the design of larger, more
definitive studies, said John Gohagan, phd, chief of the Early Detection
Research Group in NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention and the investigator
heading the study. "In a relatively quick time frame, we will learn if
smokers are willing to be randomized to receive something other than a spiral CT
scan. We will also learn about the medical follow-up of people who have the
scans, how extensive and expensive it tends to be," he said.
Board-certified radiologists will review each CT scan and x-ray,
and results will be mailed to participants and their physicians within 3 weeks
of the screen. For those with positive chest x-rays, the screening center will
recommend standard follow-up care. Because no such standard of care exists for
spiral CT scans, participants with suspicious scans will be referred to their
primary care physician and advised to consult a specialist for follow-up.
Evidence from early studies suggests that spiral CT scans detect
small lung cancers, often at the edges of the lungs. However, whether finding
these tumors actually saves lives remains to be determined. Thorough review of
the results from the Lung Screening Study will help researchers decide if
further study is feasible.
For more information about the Lung Screening Study, call NCI’s
Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.