CT Lung Scans Recommended in High-Risk Population

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently issued a landmark recommendation for the use of CT scanning to detect lung cancer. High-risk populations, such as current or former smokers and those previously exposed to asbestos, are encouraged to be screened annually.

The Task Force, which is comprised to 15 healthcare experts, estimates that as many as 20,000 lives could be saved by yearly lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is the most-fatal cancer, taking about 160,000 American lives per year, due in no small part to the difficulty of early detection. Screenings for lung cancer in its early stages are relatively rare, because symptoms are ambiguous and experts were unsure that CT scans could accurately detect it in its earliest stages.

Recent studies, however, have substantially proven that early screening can, and do, save lives. One such study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and involved 53,000 at-risk patients. These patients underwent CT scanning aimed at detecting smaller tumors. Researchers found that screening reduced lung cancer mortality in these patients by 16%.

These and other findings were used as evidence in the Task Forces’ recent recommendation. Among those identified as ‘high-risk’ include current and former smokers, senior citizens, and those known to have been previously exposed to asbestos. Asbestos causes a rare but almost always fatal condition known as mesothelioma, which most often affects the pleural lining of the lungs.

If cancer is suspected through the CT screening, doctors must then perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Biopsies require a needle to be inserted into the chest and lungs to receive tissue samples. The procedure is, unfortunately, painful and risky, as the needle can puncture the lung causing it to collapse. Another study conducted at the National Lung Screening Trial found that for every five to six lives saved by CT screening, one person died from complications during biopsies.

Of course, the inherent risks of biopsies are not the only concern to healthcare professionals – the implementation of these new recommendations would change clinical practice.

The traditional treatments for advanced lung cancer are largely unsuccessful. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation can only go so far once the disease has spread to other organs and hard tissue. The development of stem cell research and immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system target and kill cancer cells, is on its way but still in the early stages.

Immunotherapy treatments are still considered to be alternative methods to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Researchers are now focusing on biomarkers that could be useful for early diagnosis and potentially lead to more effective treatments. Some experts recently concluded that Ephrin (EPH) B2 seemed to play a significant role in mesothelioma cell lines and tumors.

Scientists at the New York University Langone Medical Center examined EPHB2 in nearly 25 mesothelioma tumors and found that it was substantially elevated compared with normal tissue. They found EPHB2 overexpressed in all malignant mesothelioma cells lines.

Other companies, such as Verastem, are in the final stages of new, potentially ground-breaking drugs to treat mesothelioma and other cancers through the targeting of stem cells. Verastem’s new drug, VS-6063, also known as defactinib, recently received orphan drug status from the federal government and has opened enrollment for clinical trials in 11 different countries, including the U.S.

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on all developments related to treatment of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed a related illness, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for you medical bills, lost wages, or wrongful death.

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