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.