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The survival of lung cancer patients increases to 92% with annual preventative CAT scans

The University Hospital and the CIMA of the University of Navarra are the only Spanish centers that participated in this international study

Descripcion de la imagen
From left to right: Dr. Montuenga, Dr. Zulueta and Dr. Bastarrika. FOTO: Manuel Castells
27/10/06 13:16 Mª Pilar Huarte

The survival of lung cancer patients increases to 92% of the cases in the 10 years after diagnosis, if they undergo annual preventative CAT scans with low doses of radiation. These are the results of the International Study for the Early Detection of Lung Cancer (IELCAP), which was participated in by only two Spanish centers, the University Hospital and the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra.

The study of more than 31,000 smokers, and adults over the age of 40, took place over the last 10 years. Experts from more than 40 medical centers participated in this research project, including specialists from countries such as the U.S., Spain, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Israel, Canada and China. The conclusions were published recently in the prestigious specialized journal, theNew England Journal of Medicine.

Of the 31,000 persons studied, lung cancer was diagnosed in 484 cases, 85% of those in the earliest phase, stage 1, according to Dr. Javier Zulueta Frances, director of the Department of Pulmonology at the University Hospital of Navarra. Of the patients diagnosed with cancer in stage 1, 88% survived more than 10 years. The survival rate increases to 92% when surgical treatment begins within a month of the diagnosis.

The cancer with the worst prognosis

This discovery is of special relevance, since lung cancer is in fact the most common oncological pathology, and which has the worst prognosis, with a maximum survival rate of 15% within 5 years of diagnosis. The reason that the rate of survival is so radically low is that "by the time the patient visits a doctor, the illness has already reached an advanced stage" according to Dr. Zulueta. However, the average diameter of the detected tumors in the risk group studied by the IELCAP ranges from 9 and 13 mm.

This is the earliest stage in which this cancer can currently be observed. In addition, the CIMA of the University of Navarra searches for molecular lung cancer risk-markers and researches the existence of biomarkers which can alert to the presence of cancer beforehand, if the tumor can be observed with a thoracic CAT scan or other radiological technology.

Economic Costs

The preliminary studies performed indicate that the relationship between the cost and the effectiveness of the diagnosis is positive when "the economic cost of the lung cancer treatment in early phases is much more inexpensive than when encountered in advanced phases," claims Dr. Zulueta. Therefore, according to this international research project, it is evident that medical authorities and public health experts must attack the problem of early detection of lung cancer in the at-risk population.

Dr. Zulueta, along with Dr. Luis Montuenga Badía -director of the Area of Oncology of the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra- and Dr. Gorka Bastarrika Aleman -a specialist from the Department of Radiology of the University Hospital- have directed the research project in Spain. Specialists from several other departments of the University Hospital participated in the study, including Thoracic Surgery, Internal Medicine, Radiology, Neurology, Nuclear Medicine, Anatomical Pathology and Oncology.
De las 31.000 personas estudiadas, se diagnosticó cáncer de pulmón en 484 casos, el 85% de ellos en estadio I, el más precoz, según explica el Dr. Javier Zulueta Francés, director del Departamento de Neumología de la Clínica Universitaria de la Universidad de Navarra. De los pacientes en los que se diagnosticó el cáncer en estadio I, el 88% sobrevive más de 10 años. El índice de supervivencia aumenta hasta el 92% cuando el tratamiento quirúrgico se comienza antes de que transcurra un mes desde el diagnóstico.