Screening trial of blood test for lung cancer is set to start in Scotland

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June 1, 2012

Scotland has one of the highest rates of occurrence of lung cancer in the world. Most previous trials of various methods of screening for lung cancer have been unsuccessful. However a trial performed in the USA, screening 53,000 smokers using low radiation dose computed tomography (CAT scanning) showed that the lung cancer death rate could be reduced by 20% compared to people screened using regular chest X-rays. The problem with this trial was that the vast majority of positive results on screening turned out to be false positive results.

Using the blood test first and only using the CT test on those with a positive blood test should result in far less false positive results while still detecting about half of the cancers. This is the strategy that will be used in the Scottish trial. The first results from the trial are expected in 2014.

The EarlyCDT-Lung  test  is being trialled in the UK and is available in the US. It is not yet available in Australia and is unlikely to be available before the UK trial is completed and the results evaluated.

Most existing tumour marker tests look for protein or other substances produced by the tumour. This new test which was developed at the University of Nottingham, instead looks for autoantibodies produced by the person’s immune system against substances produced by the tumour cells. Professor John Robertson of the University of Nottingham lead the research to develop the test.

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

British Medical Journal  (BMJ 2012;344:e2312)

The Guardian

University of Nottingham