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Lung cancer screening trial success

The UK Lung cancer screening trial (UKLS) has demonstrated that patients with a high risk of developing lung cancer can be identified with early stage disease, and over 80 per cent were given surgery as a treatment.

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The UKLS trial was analysed by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and conducted by experts in the University of Liverpool, with the aim of highlighting the need for a screening programme to help benefit people who are at risk of developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK for both men and women, and the number of deaths in 2012 was over 35,000. Outcomes are so poor because around 70 per cent of lung cancer patients first present to specialists when they have incurable advanced disease. If a patient’s lung cancer could be identified at an early stage, then the clinical outcome would be greatly improved.

UKLS is the first and only lung cancer screening trial to take place in the UK and has provided in-depth information on how to set up a national lung cancer screening programme and identify high risk individuals in the population. It was a randomised controlled trial in 4,055 individuals and used special x-ray equipment to create detailed pictures of areas inside the patients’ bodies.

Professor Stephen Duffy from QMUL’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and the Lead Statistician of the UKLS said: “The results of this trial are very promising, and further follow-up of the trial population will inform decisions about whether there should be a screening programme, and about improvements to the screening process.”

Professor John Field, Clinical Professor of Molecular Oncology and the Chief Investigator of the UKLS trial, said: “The UKLS trial has successfully demonstrated that we have a way to screen for lung cancer in high risk individuals in the UK. However, as UKLS was a pilot trial, researchers are currently awaiting the outcome of the Dutch CT screening trial, which will potentially provide mortality data to argue for implementation of a national lung cancer screening programme in the UK.

“If we could detect lung cancer via screening of high risk individuals, it would make a major impact on the diagnosis of lung cancer at an earlier stage of the disease and would greatly improve the survival rates of those affected by this terrible disease.”

The UKLS was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme, and carried out in partnership with Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital, Papworth Hospital and the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital.

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