Study to test feasibility of lung cancer screening programme

The pilot UK Lung Screening (UKLS) trial, in partnership with Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital; Papworth Hospital, Cambridge; and the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, London, is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) and builds on a programme of research into the feasibility of lung cancer screening.

Researchers will assess if the expertise and technology at cancer centres in the UK could efficiently support a large-scale screening programme, like systems already in place for breast cancer detection. 

The team, part of the Liverpool Lung Project, funded by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, has already completed a study to identify the risk factors of developing lung cancer, which includes history of respiratory disease and smoking. 

Members of the public who are invited to take part in the pilot UKLS trial will attend Papworth Hospital, Cambridge or Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, to receive a CT-Scan and be monitored for early signs of lung cancer.  This group will be compared to those who have not received specialist scans.  All those participants who smoke will be offered advice about how to stop smoking.

Funding for the pilot study follows positive results from a feasibility study funded by the NIHR HTA programme and the results of a similar lung cancer screening project in the US.  The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) in the US found that death from the disease could be reduced through a screening programme that detected the condition in its early stages.

UKLS aims to produce results in the same time-frame as a major European screening trial called NELSON.  The trial is run by the Dutch Lung Cancer Screening Group and the UK team are working closely with the Dutch team to help maximise the data available.
Professor John Field, Chief Investigator of UKLS at the University’s Cancer Research Centre, said: “Although the number of deaths from lung cancer is falling, it still kills more than 35,000 people each year in the UK, which is more than any other cancer.  The success of CT screening trials could potentially lead to the implementation of a national lung cancer screening programme, which could have an enormous impact on the future of all lung cancer treatment strategies.  We could see significant changes in managing the disease, similar to the impact of breast screening over the last 15 years.”

Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for Cancer at the Department of Health, said: “I am delighted that the Department of Health, through the NIHR, is taking the lead on behalf of all National Cancer Research Institute partners, by funding this important pilot study and progressing research in this area.  UKLS complements other trials currently underway in Europe and the US.”

Professor Ray Donnelly, founder of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “This is tremendous news and something I have dreamed of and campaigned for since I first set up the charity 20 years ago.  It is a major step forward in the battle against lung cancer and I hope it will benefit thousands of people.  It would not have happened if it were not for the research in early diagnosis that the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has been funding since 1993.”

The UKLS trial has been developed by clinical and screening trial experts across the country; see the notes to editors below, for the full list of co-applicants.

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £110 million annually.

2. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme, commissions research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 550 issues published to date. The journal’s 2008 Impact Factor (6.91) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download free of charge from the website,

3. The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training.  Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), and conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients.

4.The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (Registered Charity England & Wales 1046854 – Scotland SC037596) is the only charity in the UK wholly dedicated to defeating lung cancer – the biggest cancer killer in the world.

5. Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the largest and busiest teaching trusts in the north of England with an annual budget of over £400m, more than 7,000 staff and almost one million patients being seen every year. The Trust’s three hospitals provide general hospital services, emergency care to the local community and specialist dental services.

6. Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is the largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital in the UK.  The Papworth Thoracic Oncology service is one of the largest in the UK assessing over 800 patients per annum.  Clinical research is integrated throughout the diagnosis and treatment pathways resulting in high levels of recruitment to clinical and translational (bench to bedside) research studies.  In collaboration with scientists in the Cambridge CR-UK Research Institute, Papworth is building a programme of research examining ways to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages when it should be possible to treat and cure it more easily. 

7. Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest specialist hospitals in the country providing heart and lung surgery, cardiology and respiratory medicine. The Trust serves an adult population of over 2.8 million and the geographical catchment area encompasses Liverpool, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man.

8. Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is a national and international specialist heard and lung centre based in Chelsea, London and Harefield, Middlesex.  The Trust helps patients from all age groups who have heart and lung problems.  The Trust is the largest treatment centre for the surgical treatment of lung cancer and severe emphysema.  It cares for more people with breathing difficulties than anywhere else in the UK.  Doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are experts in their chosen field and carry out some of the most complicated heart and lung surgery and procedures available anywhere in the world.

9. The UKLS trial co-applicants and their respective institutions include:

• Professor John Field, Director Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, Cancer Research Centre, University of Liverpool

• Professor Paula Williamson, Director Clinical Trials Research Centre, University of Liverpool

• Professor Stephen Duffy, Cancer Screening, Barts and London School of Medicine

• Professor David Hansell, Thoracic Imaging, Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College, London

• Dr David Baldwin, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Honorary Secretary of the British Thoracic Society

• Professor Mahesh Parmar, Head of Cancer Group Clinical Trials Unit and NCRN Assistant Director

• Professor Kevin Kerr, Consultant Pathologist, Aberdeen

• Mr Richard Page, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital

• Professor David Weller, General Practice, University of Edinburgh

• Professor Nicholas Wald, Director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine

• Professor David Whynes, Heath Economics, University of Nottingham

• Professor Tim Eisen, Medical Oncology, University of Cambridge

• Dr Katherine Brain, Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff University

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Categories Cancers