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Current, former smokers needed for national lung screening trial

Sep. 25, 2003, 4:26 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Current and former smokers are needed for a study to determine if screening people with either spiral computerized tomography (CT ) or chest X-ray before they have symptoms can reduce deaths from lung cancer.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) is enrolling 50,000 participants at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and 29 other sites throughout the United States.

"Lung cancer will kill nearly 155,000 Americans this year – more than cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and pancreas combined," said Dr. John Worrell, institutional principal investigator in the study at Vanderbilt-Ingram. "Our hope is that this study will lead to saving lives, but only through a carefully done study like this can we be sure that either CT or X-ray is more effective at preventing lung cancer deaths."

Launched by the National Cancer Institute, the trial is a randomized, controlled study, the "gold standard" of research studies. Study participants will be randomly assigned to receive either an initial chest X-ray or a spiral CT followed by repeat examinations annually for two years Researchers will continue to contact participants annually to monitor their health until 2009.

Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for development of lung cancer, the nation’s leading cancer killer. The estimated 90 million current and former smokers are considered to be at high risk for this disease.

When clinically detected, lung cancer has frequently spread outside the lungs. Spiral CT, a technology introduced in the 1990s, can pick up tumors well under 1 centimeter across (about the size of an Altoid mint), while chest X-rays detect tumors about 1 to 2 cm (about the size of a penny).

"Conventional wisdom suggests that the smaller the tumor when it is found, the more likely the chance of survival – but that remains to be proven," Worrell said. "Because of the number of individuals participating and because it is a randomized, controlled trial, NLST will be able to provide the evidence needed to determine whether spiral CT scans are better than chest X-rays at reducing a person’s chances of dying from lung cancer."

Spiral CT uses X-rays to scan the entire chest in about 15 to 25 seconds, during a single breath hold. A computer creates images from the scan, assembling them into a cross sectional model of the lungs. More than half of the hospitals in the United States own a spiral CT machine and routinely use them for staging lung and other cancers – that is, determining how advanced the cancer is.

Recently some hospitals have begun performing spiral CT scans as a new way to find early lung cancer in smokers and former smokers. However, no scientific evidence to date has shown that screening or early detection of lung cancer with either spiral CT or chest X-rays actually saves lives.

Participants in NLST will receive lung cancer screenings free of charge. Men and women may be able to participate in NLST if they meet the following requirements: 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 cancers or in situ cancers); are not currently enrolled in any other cancer screening or cancer prevention trial; have not had a CT scan of the chest or lungs within the last 18 months. Additionally, participants can receive referrals to smoking cessation programs.

Persons interested in learning more about participating in the trial can call Vanderbilt NLST at 1-800-9VU-NLST (1-800-988-6578).

For additional information about NLST:
Call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service toll-free, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) for information in English or Spanish. The number for callers with TTY equipment is 1-800-332-8615.

Log on to cancer.gov/NLST.

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute in Tennessee, and one of only 39 nationwide. This designation, the highest ranking awarded to cancer centers by the world’s foremost authority on cancer, recognizes research excellence in cancer causes, development, treatment and prevention, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community education, information and outreach. To learn more, please visit www.vicc.org.

Media Contact: Cynthia Manley, (615) 936-5711 Cynthia.manley@vanderbilt.edu

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