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Vindication At Last For Low-Dose Helical CT

November 5, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology
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Thursday’s big news that the National Cancer Institute was halting a test of lung cancer screening methods came as vindication for Claudia Henschke, PhD, MD.

The NCI stopped the National Lung Screening Trial before its scheduled completion because the trial had already shown that low-dose helical CT was a superior screening method to standard chest X-ray. The NCI announced that the trial found “20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose helical CT.” The randomized national trial involved more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 through 74.

Dr. Henschke, clinical professor of radiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, has been trying to tell people the same thing for more than a decade. “I’m thrilled, because it makes such a difference for people’s lives,” she told Reuters.

In 1999, The Lancet published a study by Dr. Henschke and colleagues that found low-dose helical CT effective at detecting lung cancer “at an earlier and potentially more curable stage.” Cancer experts debated the validity of the findings and the wisdom of using such scans for all smokers given the high rate of false-positive results.

In 2006, Dr. Henschke’s team published similar findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. Again, the results met with skepticism, especially when it was revealed that a tobacco company had helped pay for the research.

Now the NCI has sided with Dr. Henschke and her colleagues. Dr. Henschke admitted to a bit of what Reuters called “exasperation.” She thinks screening should have been ramped up long ago.

“This has now taken 10 years,” she said. “If you think about it, in the United States we have 160,000 deaths each year from lung cancer. That’s 1.6 million.”

The NCI noted that deaths from all causes, not just lung cancer, were 7 percent lower among those screened with low-dose helical CT than among those screened with chest X-ray. “Further analysis will be required to understand this aspect of the findings more fully,” the NCI announcement said.

Dr. Henschke thinks she already understands. “The low-dose spiral CT is not just screening for lung cancer,” she said. “It is screening for COPD as well as cardiovascular disease.” Her team conducted a study, published in the current issue of Radiology, concluding that low-dose helical CT can find coronary calcifications in major blood vessels and thus predict who is at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and artery disease.

Related seminar: Thoracic Imaging


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One Response to “Vindication At Last For Low-Dose Helical CT”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Hospitals Hype Bargain Lung CT For Smokers on August 17th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    […] November, the National Cancer Institute halted the National Lung Screening Trial early because results dramatically showed that low-dose helical CT was much better than a standard chest […]