Yet another study supporting CT lung cancer screening has been published, adding to a growing body of evidence that population-based CT screening programs will be effective in reducing lung cancer deaths.
The new study comes from European Radiology, where researchers from Hungary describe findings from HUNCHEST-II, a population-based program that screened 4.2k high-risk people at 18 institutions.
- Screening criteria were largely similar to other studies: people between the ages of 50 and 75 who were current or former smokers with at least 25 pack-year histories. Former smokers had quit within the last 15 years.
Recruitment for HUNCHEST-II took place from September 2019 to January 2022. Participants received a baseline low-dose CT (LDCT) scan, with the study protocol calling for annual follow-up scans (more on this later). Researchers found:
- The prevalence of baseline screening exams positive for lung cancer was 4.1%, comparable to the NELSON trial (2.3%) but much lower than the NLST (27%)
- 1.8% of participants were diagnosed with lung cancer throughout screening rounds
- 1.5% of participants had their cancer found with the baseline exam
- Positive predictive value was 58%, at the high end of population-based lung screening programs
- 79% of screen-detected cancers were early stage, making them well-suited for treatment
- False-positive rate was 42%, a figure the authors said was “concerning”
Taking a deeper dive into the data produces interesting revelations. Overdiagnosis is a major concern with any screening test; it was a particular problem with NLST but was lower with HUNCHEST-II.
- Researchers said they used a volume-based nodule evaluation protocol, which reduced the false-positive rate compared to the nodule diameter-based approach in NLST.
Also, a high attrition rate occurred between the baseline scan and annual screening rounds, with only 12% of individuals with negative baseline LDCT results going on to follow-up screening (although the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected these results).
The HUNCHEST-II results add to the growing momentum in favor of national population-based CT lung screening programs. Germany is planning to implement a program in early 2024, and Taiwan is moving in the same direction. The question is, does the US need to step up its game as screening compliance rates remain low?