Wednesday, November 1, 2006

When It Comes to Lung Cancer, She Doesn’t Believe in Waiting

Article in today's New York Times -- When It Comes to Lung Cancer, She Doesn’t Believe in Waiting, by Denise Grady.  The article details Dr. Claudia Henschke's efforts to have the medical establishment embrace CT scans of smokers as a way to detect lung cancer early and begin treatment.  Here's an excerpt:

No one disputes that the scans find small tumors. The study published last week involved 31,567 people scanned at more than 30 hospitals around the world. The scans found cancer in 484, often early; 85 percent were at Stage I. Without CT scans, lung cancer is usually found later, too late to cure.

With surgery, the researchers estimated the patients’ 10-year survival rate at 88 percent — a huge increase over the usual survival rate for Stage I, 70 percent at 5 years. Eight patients in the study who had Stage I tumors but refused treatment died within 5 years.

Other experts want the one thing that Dr. Henschke and her team have not provided — a study comparing two sets of patients, a group given CT scans and a control group given chest X-rays or no screening at all, to see whether the scans really do lower the death rate from lung cancer in the long run.

Such studies, randomized controlled trials, are generally considered the gold standard in medical research.

The article also notes that the National Cancer Institute is undertaking a $300 million study to compare CT and chest X-rays in 50,000 people, with results expected by 2009.


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