U health school chosen to conduct lung cancer study

Erin Ghere

An institute combining the efforts of the University’s School of Public Health and Abbott Northwestern Hospital has been selected to conduct a national lung cancer screening study.
The year-long, $3 million study will be conducted by the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute in Minneapolis and will recruit 3,000 volunteers to determine if spiral computer tomography (CT) scans save lives through early detection.
The volunteers will be current and former smokers and between the ages of 55 and 74.
“The only way to find out whether screening saves lives is with a large study where people receiving the scans are tracked alongside a control group that does not get them,” Tim Church, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health and principal investigator, said in a statement.
To date, no technology has been effective at reducing the number of deaths from lung cancer. Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancers in men and 75 percent in women, according to the University Cancer Center’s Web site.
Smoking also increases the risk of chronic lung disease and coronary heart disease.
National Health Interview Survey data show cigarette smoking among adults over the age of 18 has declined 40 percent between 1965 and 1990, however between 1990 and 1994, overall smoking rates were virtually unchanged.
In 1994, an estimated 48 million adults, 25 million men and 22.7 million women, smoked.
The Virginia center was one of six national centers chosen to work on the study. The one-year study will help gauge the feasibility of a longer study with more participants in the future.
During the study, each center will recruit up to 500 people and assign them to receive either a spiral CT or a chest X-ray. Researchers will compare the cancer detection rates of each.
Evidence from earlier studies suggest spiral CT scans are able to detect small lung cancers, but it remains unknown whether finding them actually saves lives.
A recent report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests screening may detect lung tumors that never become life threatening.
The screening will be done at the cancer institute. Doctors will make medical recommendations to those with positive chest X-rays or spiral CT scans will.
“Scans will identify benign lesions, such as scars, as well as tumors of varying degrees of malignancy and premalignancy,” said Martin Oken, medical director of the cancer institute, in a statement.
The lung screening study builds on scientific infrastructure of the 150,000-participant Prostate, Lung, Colon and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which was launched by the National Cancer Institute in 1992.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.