Landmark study to detect lung cancer early

Three men and three women standing beside some medical imaging equipment
Lung cancer screening study team (L-R) supervisor CT medical imaging technologist Chris Wood, lead investigator Dr Annette McWilliams, project manager Jacqueline Logan, specialist chest radiologists Dr Bann Saffar, Dr Yi Jin Kuok and Dr Stephen Melsom
May 26, 2018

Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) is taking part in an international lung cancer screening study to determine the most effective methods for early lung cancer diagnosis.

Lead Investigator and FSH Respiratory Physician Dr Annette McWilliams said lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia.

“A lot of work has been done in lung cancer screening in past 15 years to get to this point, we are now part of a landmark study,” Dr McWilliams said.

“The use of low dose chest CT scans has been shown to save lives from lung cancer but we do not yet have a lung cancer screening program in Australia.”

The study is recruiting participants aged between 55 to 80 years of age who are current or former smokers to undertake a risk assessment, breathing test and, if eligible, a low-dose chest CT scan and then tracked for five years.

Patients with suspicious lesions are seen in the FSH Fast Track Lung Cancer Clinic for management, diagnosis and treatment, and continue as part of the study.

Dr McWilliams hopes this trial is the catalyst for change in how lung cancer is diagnosed in Australia to lead to better survival outcomes.

“Currently, the survival rates for lung cancer are only 15 per cent, as most patients have advanced, incurable disease at the time of diagnosis,” Dr McWilliams said.

“Smoking cessation remains crucial but about 60 per cent of lung cancers in Australia occur in people who have already quit smoking or have never smoked.

“Lung cancer screening with low dose chest CT has been proven to reduce lung cancer deaths and save lives.”

Several countries including the USA and Sweden have either implemented lung cancer screening or are evaluating implementation methods.

This study, also underway in Canada and Hong Kong, will provide crucial information for implementation of lung cancer screening in Australia in partnership with Cancer Council NSW.

The aim is to recruit 500 local participants. Call 1800 768 655 for further information.

Read more about our research in the South Metropolitan Health Service Research Report 2017 (PDF 3.4MB).