Lung Cancer Detection Trial Announced For Smokers

A simple blood test which can identify lung cancer five years before conventional screenings will be trialled by the NHS on 10,000 high risk smokers.

The trial is being tested in Scotland in the anticipation that it could provide the first national screening programme for lung cancer in addition to paving the way for better detection of other tumorous cancers such as breast, colon and prostate.

A version of the test, which was developed at Nottingham University to detect breast cancer early, could be ready for next year.

It could transform how cancer is detected and mean that therapy could start much earlier, when the likelihood of success is best.   This would result in radically cutting death rates, and decreasing medical bills.

The early CDT has already been obtainable in America for two years, and has been shown in previous clinical trials to be effective.

The test works by recognising antibodies in the blood created by the immune system when lung cancer is present.  An elevation over a predetermined level suggests a tumour may be developing, according to creators of the test, Oncimmune.   These patients will then be referred for a CT scan – the x-ray-style imaging presently used to identify the disease.

Tests based on antibodies have been available for a number of years, but until recently have not been sensitive enough to accurately detect cancer.

The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Sir Harry Burns, announced that a major trial has been launched to test the cost effectiveness of using CDT to screen for lung cancer.  If successful, the £200-per-person procedure could be rolled out across the rest of the country.

Sir Harry noted that “the earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully, and currently 85 per cent of patients with lung cancer remain undiagnosed until the disease has reached an advanced stage.”

“This pilot project is part of our Detect Cancer Early programme, which aims to increase the early detection of cancer by 25 per cent.”  “By testing those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer, and diagnosing it at its earliest possible stage, we stand a better chance of being able to treat the cancer successfully.  This means patients can be treated when their general health is better and when less aggressive treatment may be required than if the cancer had spread,” he added.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK, with around 41,000 people being diagnosed annually, and roughly 93% of patients dying within five years of the onset of symptoms.

Professor John Robertson, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Oncimmune Ltd commented that “we are working hard on bringing the next test for the early detection of breast cancer to the market within a year.  We are also working on a number of similar tests for prostate, colon and ovarian cancer – a blood test to aid detection of all tumour cancers (70% of all cancer) is still the overriding objective of our work.”

Once the Scottish trials are complete, the NHS will examine whether the test is cost-effective for use in mass screening.  If the results are positive, the UK national screening committee will decide how checks can be rolled out to millions of smokers acround the country.


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