A study to assess the feasibility of undertaking a UK-based screening trial for lung cancer has been commissioned by the National institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme.
Lung cancer kills more people worldwide than any other malignancy, accounting for around 1.4 million deaths each year. Around 38,000 individuals are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year.
Lead researcher, Professor John Field, Director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme at the University of Liverpool, said: "The number of deaths from lung cancer has fallen in past years in the UK and this is likely to be due to a decline in tobacco smoking, and possibly greater public awareness.
"However, there is a large ex-smoking population, who remain at high risk of developing lung cancer. Screening to detect the disease before patients develop any symptoms is a method that urgently requires evaluation as surgical resection at an early stage of the disease remains the only realistic option for a cure."
The results of the feasibility study will be used to decide whether a pilot study and subsequently a full clinical trial should be commissioned. This would use computerised tomography (CT) to scan people at high risk of developing lung cancer, and would look at both the benefits and the harms that could result from such a screening programme.
Professor Field continues: "If the results of the feasibility study are promising it will be important to undertake a randomised control trial to assess if CT scanning is the best way forward. Only then would evidence be available to show whether a National Lung cancer Screening Programme should be considered. We are delighted that the HTA has decided to invest in this first stage, which will help inform whether it is feasible to conduct a full trial."
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