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Study Hopes to Answer Question Surrounding Lung Screening

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Inland Empire

A new technology called spiral computed tomography (spiral CT) gives radiologists the ability to detect smaller tumors than can be found with chest X-rays. But whether the scans, or X-rays, can truly save lives is still unknown. Now, the American Cancer Society is supporting a National Cancer Institute investigation to find out if spiral CT or X-rays can reduce deaths from America’s top cancer killer.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), funded by the National Cancer Institute, will enroll 50,000 current or former smokers at 30 study sites throughout the United States, including 2,000 at the University of California at Los Angeles. The American Cancer Society is organizing grassroots efforts throughout the Inland Empire to raise awareness of the study and help it reach full enrollment quickly.

“Lung cancer will kill more than 157,000 Americans in 2003, including 13,600 in California, and 1,300 in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties,” said Terry Lynn, MSW, chair of the Inland Empire Community Council for the American Cancer Society. “We want to help UCLA reach full enrollment as part of this ambitious nationwide effort as soon as possible.”

The need to determine if earlier detection of lung cancer saves lives is acute. When lung cancer is diagnosed and treated early, before it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, the five-year survival rate is 48 percent. However, only 15 percent of cases are caught at that early, localized stage. The overall five-year survival rate for the disease has remained at 15 percent for the past few decades. Whether or not lung cancer detected early with spiral CT or chest x-ray would have better survival is undetermined.

Denise Aberle, M.D., principal investigator for the study at UCLA, says there are still a lot of unanswered questions about both spiral CT and X-ray. “While it seems logical that finding smaller tumors would improve the chances for lung cancer survival, we don’t have convincing data to back that up. The only way to find out is with a clinical trial like this one.”

Trail participants will be assigned to receive either a spiral CT scan or a chest X-ray, and will have the same screening procedure again one and two years later. Researchers will contact participants at least yearly to monitor their health until the trial’s expected end date, in 2009. Participants will receive lung cancer screenings free of charge.

Men and women can participate in NLST if they meet the following criteria: Are current or former smokers ages 55 to 74; Have never had lung cancer and have not had any cancer within the last five years (except some skin or in situ cancers); Are not currently enrolled in any other cancer screening or cancer prevention trial; and Have not had a CT scan of the chest or lungs within the last 18 months.

Participants who are interested in quitting smoking will receive referrals to smoking cessation programs. For more information about NLST, call the National Cancer Institute at (800) 4-CANCER or the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-4904. Study locations are also listed at www.cancer.gov and www.cancer.org/lungtrial.

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