Article Abstract

The narrow path to organized LDCT lung cancer screening programs in Europe

Authors: Eugenio Paci


A recent position statement by a group of European experts reviewed the current evidence for low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) lung cancer screening, based on the outcomes and screening performance of the published randomized trials and identified actions needed for eventual future implementation. After the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) outcome publication, guidelines changed in USA and Canada, but there are still problems in real-world screening practice. In Europe any decision was postponed to the publication of the European randomized trial outcomes and recommendations continue to discourage screening for lung cancer in all member countries. The NELSON randomized controlled trial (RCT), the largest one in Europe, outcome results are still waited, whereas the MILD, DANTE, DLSCT and ITALUNG (all with small sample size) RCTs have published mortality and incidence data with adequate follow up. The implementation of an organized screening in Europe is conditioned by a health technology assessment process at European level. According with the European policy, confirmed in the recent European Cancer Code [2015], screening is transferred in current public-health practice according with evidence-based recommendations and based on organized, usually population-based, programs. Guidelines, standard indicators of performance, training of dedicated radiologists and professionals and a comprehensive quality assurance system is requested in European countries to implement nationally a public health screening program. Waiting the NELSON randomized trial results, key issues as modality for selection of high risk subjects and recruitment, integration of screening and smoking cessation, optimal screening regimen and related research on biomarkers should be assessed, discussed and reviewed. Informed decision making, promotion of primary prevention and integration of screening and smoking cessation are all essential components of a comprehensive risk reduction policy. The path to an Evidence-based screening practice is narrow and, in the absence of a well-established decision-making process, the risk of a spontaneous, uncontrolled use of LDCT screening or, on the other side, an oversight of the screening opportunity is high.