Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
Landmark Study Involving QC Reveals that Lung Cancer 10-Year
Survival Dramatically Improves with Annual CT Screening and Prompt Treatment
FLUSHING, NY, October 25, 2006 – According to a report in the October 26, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, lung cancer can be detected at its very earliest stage in 85 percent of patients using annual low-dose CT screening. When this is followed by prompt surgical removal, the 10-year survival rate is 92 percent. If these procedures are followed, the number of deaths from lung cancer— currently the number one cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the U.S.—would dramatically decrease.
These findings are the result of a long-term, landmark collaboration among 38 institutions in seven countries. Called the International Early Lung Cancer Action Project (I-ELCAP), the study was launched by a team of researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Queens College of the City University of New York contributed the second largest number of participants from the U.S. population to the overall study. It did this by conducting CT scanning of 6,220 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) workers at the DOE gaseous diffusion plants in Oak Ridge (TN), Portsmouth (OH), and Paducah (KY). Professor Steven Markowitz, MD, Director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, City University of New York, partnered with the United Steelworkers to conduct this DOE-funded study.
Stage I lung cancer is the only stage at which a cure by surgery is highly likely. While survival rates have been climbing for other forms of cancer, the survival rates for lung cancer have remained dismal. Approximately 95 percent of the 173,000 people diagnosed each year in the U.S. die from the disease—more than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. Lung cancer, the most common occupational cancer in the U.S. workplace, is usually lethal because in the absence of screening, it is nearly always diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Among the 31,567 participants in the overall I-ELCAP study, CT screening detected 484 people who were diagnosed with lung cancer; 412 of these were Stage I. Of the Stage I patients who chose not to be treated, all died within five years. Overall, the estimated 10-year survival rate for the 484 participants with lung cancer was 80 percent. The participants were 40 years of age and older and at risk for lung cancer because of a history of cigarette smoking, occupational exposure (to asbestos, beryllium, uranium, or radon), or exposure to secondhand smoke.
“For the first time, we have critical evidence that CT screening can not only detect lung cancer early, but also that people with CT-detected lung cancer survive at very high rates. This is especially important to workers who are at high risk of lung cancer due to workplace exposures,” said Dr. Markowitz, who is also a consultant to the United Steelworkers.
The coordinating center for I-ELCAP is led by the study’s lead author, Dr. Claudia Henschke, chief of the chest imaging division and professor of radiology and cardiothoracic surgery at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
CT scanners have greatly advanced since the early 1990s. Sub-millimeter “slicing” can now be applied to the entire chest in a single breath-hold. As a result, lung cancer can now be detected when it is quite small. Although CT scans once yielded only 30 images, current technology yields over 600 images.
The Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College is an environmental and occupational health research institute dedicated to elucidating and solving real-world environmental problems.
For more information, please contact Professor Markowitz at (718)-670-4194.