Federal minister for health Greg Hunt has responded to calls for a funded lung cancer screening pilot trial by saying he would like to see a feasibility study.
Speaking at a World Lung Cancer Day event on 1 August organised by Lung Foundation Australia, the minister said he would be writing to the new head of Cancer Australia, Professor Dorothy Keefe, “asking her to conduct the first enquiry into the prospects process and delivery of a national lung cancer screening program.”
At the event, Lung Foundation Australia representatives urged the Federal government to make a commitment to fund a national lung cancer screening pilot program, and to fund 25 additional lung cancer specialist nurses.
Professor Christine Jenkins, Chair of Lung Foundation Australia, said a lung cancer screening pilot was one of several policy interventions needed to address inequalities in care for one of Australia’s most common but neglected cancers.
“There is currently no national screening program in place for lung cancer, meaning patients are often diagnosed at a late stage – which has the knock-on effect of poorer outcomes,” she said.
“What is more, poor access to specialist multi-disciplinary teams in this country means patients fail to receive the expert guidance and care required at every stage of their diagnosis and disease journey.
“Our ask of Parliament is to act on these recommendations which can, and will, make a significant difference to the lives of the many Australians living with lung cancer,” Professor Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, a newly-published review article has concluded that the evidence to support an Australian-based lung screening framework has been strengthened by data from two local studies.
The review, co-authored by thoracic physician Professor Kwung Fong of Brisbane, says that risk prediction models based on the Queensland Lung Cancer Screening Study (2007–2014) and the International Lung Screen Trial (ILST), which started in 2016, are expected to reduce the false-positive rate and increase the positive predictive value of screening.
Lung cancer screening efficiency is also expected to improve with the implementation of new CT technologies and machine-read, quantitative image analysis.
“As new data about lung cancer screening accrue, optimisation of prevention strategies, as well as trade-offs between drivers of screening efficiency and cost-effectiveness, can be informed by modelling and implementation studies,” they write in Public Health Research and Practice.
“Overall, lung cancer screening is an opportunity to prevent thousands of lung cancer deaths, especially for former smokers who make up an increasing proportion of lung cancer cases.”
Professor Fong said centres in Queensland, Victoria, NSW and WA are currently seeking to recruit hundreds of smokers and former smokers aged 55-80 to enrol in the ILST trial.