UNMC Lung Cancer Study Shows Better Outcomes for More Serious Forms of Disease

Oct. 25, 2021, 5 p.m. ·

Dr. Apar Ganti
Dr. Apar Ganti, a UNMC lung cancer researcher. (Photo from Zoom)

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The results of a year-long lung cancer study by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center suggest earlier screening could save lives. The data shows an increased five-year survival rate for people who had more serious forms of lung cancer.

The year-long study used information from several large cancer databases that showed there were around 1.3 million cases of non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease, between 2010 and 2017. The study found while incidents of stage 1 lung cancer increased slightly, stage 2, 3 and 4 lung cancers were either stable or down. Dr. Apar Ganti was the first author of the study and said the five-year survival rate of stage 4 lung cancer was around 26% over that period.

“Why this is important is because previous data have suggested that this number was somewhere between 16%-17% the last time such an analysis was done,” Dr. Ganti said. “What we think is that the increased proportion of stage 1 lung cancer patients drove some of this increase in the five-year survival from lung cancer.”

Dr. Ganti said he’s confident increased lung cancer screening could save lives. Right now, only about 5% of eligible people are screened.

“In other words, the vast majority of people who were eligible for lung cancer screening are not being screened,” Dr. Ganti said. “So if all of them were screened, I have no doubt the survival from lung cancer would be much better than what it is today.”

He said between 10% and 20% of people diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer each year have never smoked. Screening programs consist of yearly CT scans of a person’s chest and a smoking cessation program for people who do smoke.