Lung cancer survival rates improve with CT scan follow-up

Patients with recurrent lung cancer have better post-surgery survival rates if their management includes a follow-up programme based on computer tomography (CT) of the chest, according to new findings.

The findings, presented at the ERS International Congress 2015 in Amsterdam today (27 September, 2015), is the first to show improved overall survival after surgery for a CT- based follow-up programme and could change the way patients are currently managed.

Previous research has confirmed that after the introduction of the CT-based follow-up, most cases of recurrent lung cancer can be detected before the patient has any symptoms. This allows for earlier diagnosis and leads to an improved chance of having a radical treatment against the relapse. This new study aimed to assess whether this follow-up also improved survival rates.

Researchers from the Odense University Hospital in Denmark assessed 391 patients who had surgery following a lung cancer diagnosis between 2008 and 2013. After the introduction of a CT- based follow-up in July 2010 all patients receives a scan every third month for two years and then every 6 months for three years. In May 2015, researchers recorded whether the patients were alive and free from lung cancer.

Results showed that the number of patients alive four years after surgery increased from 54% to an estimated 68%. Additionally, for patients experiencing a relapse during the first 24 months after surgery, the chance of being alive four years after the first treatment increased from 2% to an estimated 27%.

Dr Niels-Christian Hansen, presenting author on the study, commented: "Our results show a significant improvement for survival rates for patients post-surgery in a CT follow-up programme currently running in Denmark. A key strength of our study is the real-life setting we used, where we were able to demonstrate successful results in a representative sample of lung cancer patients from Denmark. This is very encouraging news and we believe that our results could contribute to the planning of similar treatment programmes in other centres and countries."

The authors plan to repeat the same kind of analysis for the group of lung cancer patients treated by radiation with the aim to cure, instead of by surgery, to see if the results are also successful for this group of patients.