Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the United States, killing more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. An average of 160,000 Americans each year will lose their battle with lung cancer. Early detection is the key to prolonging life. Jeffrey Kern, MD, director of the Lung Cancer Center at National Jewish Health notes, “We need to enhance screening to detect a greater number of early-stage lung cancers. That is the patient’s best chance of a cure.” When lung cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is 70-80 percent.
Combining Blood and Imaging
Researchers are working on the LDCT-EarlyCDT lung screening study. It combines two types of lung cancer screenings: a blood test and an imaging test called a CT chest scan. The EarlyCDT-Lung blood test screens for antigens that show up in the blood when cancerous tumors might be present. A CT chest scan can show lung nodules and masses that may not be seen on a normal chest X-ray.
The blood test has a 41 percent sensitivity; that is, it can detect 41 percent of lung cancers. The CT chest scan has shown a 20 percent reduction in death rates from lung cancer, something chemotherapy trials and chest X-ray screening trials have not been able to replicate. This combination of blood and image screening offers promise to both high-risk patients and those with other risk factors that could lead to lung cancer.
National Jewish Health is currently recruiting patients for both the LDCT-EarlyCDT and breath screening trials. To learn more, please call 303.398.1921 or 877.225.5654 and ask for the Adult CRU.
Surveillance of Lung Nodules
The Lung Nodule Registry Program at National Jewish Health received a grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Institute (PCORI) to study the effectiveness of lung nodule follow up, or surveillance. This study will track follow-up tests, and lung cancer diagnoses among patient with nodules found on chest CT scans. Any patient identified with a lung nodule is automatically tracked as part of the study. The study, which includes 25 hospitals across the US, will find out how often CT scans should be done to find out if a nodule is truly an early lung cancer.
National Jewish Health created the nation’s first Lung Nodule Registry Program, so participation in the PCORI study is an easy addition to our current protocols. We established our program because our providers recognized the importance of helping patients and referring providers to monitor nodules, increase compliance with follow-up scans and ensure early detection and treatment. At National Jewish, over 2,000 patients per year have a lung nodule found on CT scan. Of these, about 600 will require a reminder letter to come back for the follow up scan.
How will this collaboration help referral physicians and patients? Lung nodules can be the first sign of lung cancer, but only a small number of patients with a lung nodule turn out to have cancer. Repeated CT scans to check for growth of nodules is the best way to determine if a patient is likely to have an early cancer. The National Jewish Lung Nodule Registry and the PCORI project will enable National Jewish to ensure the best system of follow up and early detection of lung cancer, when cure is possible.
To learn more about this trial, please contact the Program Coordinator at 1.877.713.5066.