The 2003 EU Council Recommendations contributed greatly to synchronising approaches to early detection of cancer in European Member States.
However, the last 15 years have seen huge technological advances and the emergence of new clinical evidence that the 2003 Recommendations could not have foreseen. Therefore, it seems an opportune moment to reassess the current relevance of the Recommendations and adjust where necessary to realise the advances in cancer diagnosis and care and the benefits they can bring to both healthcare systems and patients.
A striking example is in lung cancer, which remains one of the most lethal cancers and one that has seen little advances in 5-year survival rates over the last decades. Yet as long ago as 2005, the NLST (National Lung Screening Trial) in the US showed that screening for a high-risk population can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent . This is likely to be confirmed by NELSON, a second large randomised controlled trial on LCS (lung cancer screening), expected at the end of the year. Findings from the NELSON study in the Netherlands and Belgium presented at ASCO by Harry J. De Koning of Erasmus MC, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, said that screening can “positively increase the chances of cure in this devastating disease” .
The game-changer for screening is Low Dose Computed Tomography, which can assess lung nodules in people at high risk of the disease, helping detect suspicious nodules and inform subsequent surgical intervention. Dr De Koning believed the results of the NELSON study (with almost 16,000 people enrolled, it is the second-largest lung screening trial in the world ), “should be used to inform and direct future CT screening in the world” . With more than a quarter of a Million lung cancer related death in the European Union per year , the potential benefits to any LCS programme in Europe would be sizeable.
More to follow soon.