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Early detection lung cancer study aims to recruit 200 participants

Dr. Rick Bhatia is leading the site project of the lung cancer detection study.
By Sharon Gray

The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) announced June 23 the expansion to Newfoundland and Labrador of a nationwide lung cancer detection study involving current and former smokers.

Seven sites across Canada currently participate in the study and since its launch in September 2008, a total of 37 cancers have been found. To date, 2,021 participants are enrolled in the national study, which is aimed at detecting and treating lung cancer earlier and through readily accessible and low-cost detection techniques.

Organizers of the Newfoundland and Labrador study, to be based in St. John’s, aim to recruit 200 participants over the next year. The study will be conducted in collaboration with health care and research partners at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Eastern Health, based at the Health Sciences Centre.

“We are pleased to be a part of this national lung cancer detection study and know that many current and former smokers in the province will be interested in it as well," said Dr. Rick Bhatia, Eastern Health radiologist and clinical associate professor of radiology at Memorial, who will lead the site project and work with his colleagues in respiratory medicine.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and around the world,” he said. “This study is focused on early detection and treatment of lung cancer and has the potential to significantly reduce lung cancer mortality through relatively simple breath and blood tests. We’re grateful to TFRI for expanding the study to Newfoundland and Labrador, and we believe it is of vital importance to improving survival rates from lung cancer both here and elsewhere in Canada.”

TFRI is providing $472,907 for the St. John’s study, bringing the total invested in the Early Lung Cancer Detection Study to $7.16 million. The lung study is co-funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

“We recently celebrated the launch of the Atlantic Node of the Terry Fox Research Institute in St. John’s, Newfoundland in April 2010," said Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director. “Our investment in this study site signifies our commitment to help improve cancer outcomes for patients who live here. This is the first of what we hope will be many partnership initiatives with regional cancer research and health care communities here. This study is an international first and participants are helping to make history in cancer research.”

The made-in-Canada program has sites in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax. It uses a unique combination of a questionnaire and tests of blood and breath to determine the effectiveness of these readily accessible and low-cost detection techniques for lung cancer as a first step in early detection, streaming those identified as being at higher risk to the costlier but more sensitive spiral CT and bronchoscopy.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and around the world, killing 20,000 in Canada and 1.2 million worldwide. That is more than colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined. By 2020, it is projected that lung cancer will be the fifth highest killer among all diseases.

Current and former smokers between the age of 50 and 75 who are interested in participating are urged to call 709-777-7097 in St. John’s. To contact other participating centres, please call 1-888-505-TFRI (8374).