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Low-Dose CT Screening Study Reveals Improved Diagnostic Performance for Lung Cancer

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 09 Jul 2014
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Image: A computed tomography (CT) scan showing lung cancer (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kavanagh, MD).
Image: A computed tomography (CT) scan showing lung cancer (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kavanagh, MD).
Investigators of a new study demonstrated good compliance and patient survival outcomes using a five-year low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening protocol in individuals at high-risk of developing lung cancer.

This COSMOS (Continuous Observation of SMOking Subjects) study protocol had fewer patients requiring additional diagnostic follow-up compared to other studies, including the US National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), with a minimal number of incorrect diagnoses.

The five-year survival rate for early diagnosed lung cancer is 50% but after the cancer has spread to distant regions it is only 4%. Recently, the NLST revealed a 20% lung cancer mortality reduction with LDCT compared to chest X-ray, which verified that early detection can decrease lung cancer deaths. However, few studies have comprehensively assessed the diagnostic performance, invasiveness and side effects of LDCT screening protocols with enduring follow-up.

The COSMOS study screened 5,203 asymptomatic high-risk subjects (age ≥ 50 and ≥ 20 pack years smoking history) who, based on the study criteria, either went on to other diagnostic procedures (CT, positron emission tomography [PET], or surgery) to verify lung cancer, or were rescreened every year for the next four years. All subjects were clinically followed for a median of 5.2 years.

The study’s findings, reported in the July 2014, issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO), the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, show that overall, 79% of the participants remained on the study for five years and only 6.4% required a procedure beyond the yearly LDCT. Primary lung cancer was diagnosed in 175 patients and 78% of these were diagnosed with localized disease. Because of the size and long follow-up, there were 23,116 person-years of observation. Therefore, the overall lung cancer detection rate was 0.76 per 100 person-years.

Out of the 204 invasive diagnostic procedures, 29 were benign for lung cancer, 34 had minor complications, 12 major complications and one postoperative fatality was reported. There were 14 instances where the lesions were not diagnosed as cancer, but were later determined to be cancer on subsequent yearly screening. A high proportion of the cancers (87%) were treated with intent to cure and the overall five-year survival was 78%.

“The results of the COSMOS workup protocol for indeterminate nodules detected with LDCT screening are encouraging, particularly the low recall and delayed diagnosis rates as well as the good long-term survival,” said Dr. Giulia Veronesi, Dr. Giulia Veronesi from the department of thoracic surgery, European Institute of Oncology (Milan, Italy) is a member of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and lead author of the study. “However, the workup can still be improved, possibly by tailoring the screening interval to the risk of the individual being screened using a risk evaluation algorithm that will hopefully also include in the near future molecular markers like a microRNA expression signature in serum.”

Related Links:

European Institute of Oncology

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