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Lung Cancer Alliance calls foul

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Lung Cancer Alliance calls foul; ACSH head disagrees; Shaw wants more money

Published Monday, June 12, 2006

by John Johnston

"For the third time in three months, the National Cancer Institute has tried to debunk the grim mortality statistics on lung cancer and ignore the critical need for earlier detection on the nation's number one cancer killer," said Laurie Fenton, president of Lung Cancer Alliance. "The question that begs to be answered is 'why?'"

Fenton was complaining about an article published in a recent Journal of the National Cancer Institute that claimed lung cancer screening can lead to over diagnosis of the disease.

"That's exactly what was said by the opponents of mammography screening 30 years ago," Fenton pointed out, "yet this is even more ludicrous. First of all, the study they refer to is forty years old and was so badly designed that it has already been repudiated by the experts years ago."

However, the screening jury is still out for Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) said, "despite evaluations of many different screening techniques involving hundreds of thousands of individuals, there is no evidence that such screening prevents deaths from lung cancer."

"Worse," Whelan said, "there is evidence that screening can lead to over-diagnosis of the disease -- that is, the finding of 'indolent' cancers that would never have threatened life or health but would have triggered risky surgical intervention nonetheless. Similarly, the procedure may pick up tumors which are so advanced they cannot be treated -- rendering the screening in these cases useless."

"The ongoing National Lung Screening trial may offer us new answers within years," Whelan said, adding and quoting an editorial in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: "The theoretical benefits of screening must be validated by appropriate, rigorous clinical trials before being introduced into routine practice."

All of which is not lost on cancer survivor Cong. Clay Shaw - but he has more basic concerns. He told the Boca Raton News:

"Congress and the Administration have done a good job recognizing the need for increased funding when it comes to research and development for cures of fatal diseases such as cancer. But, I think we can do more."

"Lung cancer now kills three times as many men as prostate cancer and nearly twice as many women as breast cancer." Shaw said. "Even more disturbing is the fact that over 50 percent of new lung cancer cases are being diagnosed in people who never smoked or who had already quit - many of them decades ago."

"It is past time to give cancer research the funding and attention it deserves," Shaw said.

John Johnston can be reached at 561-549-0833, or at jjohnston@bocanews.com

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