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Lung Cancer Screening Trial Opens

Calling all participants who are at a high-risk for lung cancer and are between the ages of 55-74.

April 29, 2011 | Dagny Stuart

Pierre Massion, M.D.

Smokers and ex-smokers are at higher risk for developing lung cancer, but researchers still don’t know which individuals are most likely to develop the deadly disease. Now, these high-risk individuals who live in the Nashville area are eligible to participate in the Nashville Lung Cancer Screening Trial, a research project to determine which biomarkers could be helpful for early diagnosis.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) has partnered with the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System and the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center to offer the clinical trial for high-risk individuals. Patients can enroll in the early detection study at all three locations.

Lung cancer is typically diagnosed at a late stage and kills more people in the United States every year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Smoking tobacco is one of the leading risk factors for development of lung cancer.

Pierre Massion, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology at VICC, is principal investigator for the clinical trial.

“Diagnosing lung cancer early has now been shown to increase a person’s chance of surviving,” Massion explained. “For the past 10 years here at Vanderbilt, we have been identifying a set of biomarkers that appear to be linked to lung cancer and now we are ready to screen a large number of high-risk individuals to validate the utility of these biomarkers for early diagnosis.”

Testing these biomarkers in a large population is important for two reasons, according to Massion. “If we can determine which biomarkers are most predictive of disease, we can identify the patients who need to be followed more closely,” Massion explained. Use of these biomarkers also may add value to the noninvasive diagnosis of lung cancer if we see a nodule in the lungs from a chest X-ray or CT scan.

Massion and colleagues are recruiting Nashville-area smokers or ex-smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 for the screening trial. Individuals who enroll will be offered a series of screening tests, including a lung function test, CT scan (X-ray imaging) of the chest, and a bronchoscopy which involves threading a flexible tube into the airway to obtain tissue samples. Patients also will be asked for blood or urine samples.

“With Anel Muterspaugh, our research coordinator, we will follow each patient closely for five years, and if we detect any signs that suggest lung cancer, we will refer the patient to a doctor for further testing and treatment,” Massion explained.

During the initial clinic visit at VICC, the VA or Matthew Walker, patients can find out more about the screening trial. They will be asked to sign a consent form and questionnaire and biological samples will be collected.

Otis Rickman, D.O., director of Bronchoscopy and Ronald Walker, M.D., professor of Clinical Radiology and Radiological Sciences at Vanderbilt, and Gary T. Smith, M.D., associate director of PET/CT Radiology Services at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, will participate in the lung cancer study.

Funding for the clinical trial is provided by the Early Detection Research Network Clinical Validation Center award from the National Cancer Institute.

Learn more about the Nashville Lung Cancer Screening Trial.