Keep Cancer in Check: Early detection best chance of survival

A world-first research study that aims to detect lung cancer before symptoms begin to show is now under way in Dundee.

The early lung cancer detection study will involve 10,000 people from across Tayside, Glasgow and surrounding areas.

The study launched in August and more than 1,500 people with a high risk of developing lung cancer have signed up.

Consultant chest physician Dr Stuart Schembri, a key member of the study team at Ninewells, said the trial is expected to test new ways of diagnosing lung cancer.

“Cancer is a big issue in Scotland, especially lung cancer,” Dr Schembri said. “At the moment it is often only discovered once symptoms have started and that can be too late.

“People with lung cancer often present once the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. And, once it’s spread, they’re more likely to be diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“This study is about screening people with no symptoms and catching the cancer early.”

Dr Schembri said his team need volunteers between the ages of 50 and 75 who are smokers or have smoked, or have a strong family history of lung cancer but are otherwise in good health.

“We will ask these people to come in for a blood test,” he said. “If they test positive for the abnormalities we are studying they will then be sent for a CT scan.

“We’re hoping this blood test will help us detect cancer in people who have no symptoms. If we catch it early we can give them the best chance of survival.”

Currently people are not sent for CT scans until they visit a GP with symptoms of lung cancer such as chest pains, breathlessness or coughing up blood.

Trial manager Stephanie Gallant said participating in the study was fairly straightforward.

“People need to come for one visit, which takes about half an hour,” Ms Gallant said.

“They will sit with a nurse and do a questionnaire, then give a blood sample.

“People who have a positive test result will be asked to come back for further investigation.”

Half of those participating in the study will have their blood tested and a consultation with a research nurse, and the other half will form the non-test group.

People who have a positive lung cancer blood test will then get a chest X-ray and lung scan and six-monthly follow-up scans for two years.

Early results have already detected abnormalities in participants who had no symptoms of lung cancer.

If the trial is successful Dr Schembri is hopeful the early blood screening process will be rolled out across the UK.

“If we catch lung cancer early the better chance people will live to see their grandchildren grow up,” Dr Schembri said.

“To me that’s what being a doctor is about.”

If you fit the requirements and would like to sign up for the study call 01382 383060 or visit