University of Mississippi Medical Center Faculty Play Vital Role in National Lung Screening Trial
JACKSON, Miss., Sept. 17 (AScribe Newswire) -- A nationwide lung screening trial by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) may determine whether screening with spiral computed tomography (CT) or chest X-rays before the a
Faculty at the University of Mississippi Medical Center have played an integral role in recruiting Mississippians to participate in the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which reached the target national enrollment of 50,000 current or former smokers a full eight months ahead of schedule. According to Dr. Ralph B. Vance, professor of medicine and national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, Mississippians account for a large portion of the estimated 90 million current and former smokers in the United States.
"The American Cancer Society is extremely proud of our ability to help contribute to an enrollment rate that is significantly ahead of schedule," Vance said, "although accrual for the trial continues."
Participants in the trial will receive routine spiral CTs at least annually for three to five years. Researchers will continue to track participants annually through 2009.
The spiral CT scans the patient's chest and sends the information to a computer that displays three-dimensional images of the patient's lungs. Vance said the study will determine if spiral CTs conducted routinely every six months could be a cost-effective means of diagnosing lung cancer in at-risk populations earlier.
"The spiral CT has a very high definition," Vance explained. "It can pick up very small lesions without much radiation. We may be able to locate very small tumors - called stage one tumors - and treat these patients with appropriate therapy."
According to the NCI, the study may be the first scientific evidence that screening or early detection of lung cancer using spiral CTs can actually save lives.
"Over the coming years of this trial, NLST participants will play a key role in answering critical questions about the use of screening with CT scans to lower lung cancer deaths," said Dr. Denise Aberle, NLST principal investigator.
Vance said early detection and treatment is crucial in "beating" all forms of cancer - especially lung cancer. He described the survival rate of individuals diagnosed with stage three or stage four lung cancer as "dismal."
Dismal, but slowly improving. According to the ACS, the national survival rate for all lung cancer patients in 1975 was approximately 37 percent; almost a quarter of a century later, in 1999, the rate was 42 percent. The five-year survival rate for all patients diagnosed with lung cancer is approximately 15 percent compared to the 47 percent five-year survival rate of patients diagnosed with localized disease - a stunning contrast that Vance said underscores the need for the NLST study.
"This study is going to answer a huge question about the spiral CT," he said. "If we can diagnose these patients early enough to improve their five-year survival rates, we can decrease the number of deaths from lung cancer."
Vance said in 2004 alone, the ACS projects there will be 173,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the U.S. - including approximately 2,230 in Mississippi - and 160,400 deaths attributed to lung cancer in the nation - including more than 2,000 in Mississippi.
There is little gender disparity among those figures. Although Vance said there has been a 1.8-percent decrease in deaths attributable to lung cancer in men each year, the gain has been excruciatingly slow. And although the overall number of women smokers around the country has reached a plateau, the incidence of death from lung cancer in women has increased to the point that it now exceeds breast cancer.
"That's precisely why we are conducting this study," Vance said. "These numbers aren't improving fast enough. If we can find anything cost-effective that will get people motivated to be screened and perhaps treated earlier, then we can be more effective in our fight against the disease."
Vance estimates the medical cost per year for smokers nationwide is $75.5 billion. He said for every pack of cigarettes sold, $3.45 is spent in medical care costs due to smoking and another $3.73 is lost in productivity.
"If spiral CTs have the impact we hope, these numbers should drop drastically," he said. "The ACS therefore will continue to support this trial until the results are known. We believe what we learn from the NLST will lead to saving more lives from lung cancer."
Vance cautioned smokers should not consider earlier detection to be a "cure-all" cancer therapy. He said the best cancer preventive measure is to abstain from using tobacco products altogether.
"Individuals who quit smoking before age 50 can double their chances of avoiding lung disease over the next 15 years than if they continued to smoke. That in itself is reason to quit."
Although it has reached its participation goal, the trial remains open for additional participants, especially those of Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics. For more information or to volunteer for the study, call 1-800-ACS-2345.
Petric Guilfoyle, 601-984-1100; email@example.com