A trial to find out if screening can pick up lung cancer at an early stage in a high risk group of people - The Lung-SEARCH study

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Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Lung cancer




Phase 3

This trial is looking at a way of trying to detect lung cancer at an early stage in people whose lungs are not working very well.  This includes people who have a lower than normal lung function, or who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This trial is supported by Cancer Research UK.

More about this trial

COPD is a word for a group of lung diseases. Many people with lower than normal lung function or COPD are smokers or ex smokers who have an increased risk of getting lung cancer.

Lung cancer is very often diagnosed at a late stage, making it difficult to treat. If it is diagnosed earlier, the outcome is likely to be much better. But some research has shown that even if you diagnose lung cancers at an earlier stage, this may not mean that fewer people die of the disease. This may be because the tests used to screen for lung cancer were not able to pick up very early signs of the disease.

In this trial, the researchers are using 2 new tests, which could be better at picking up very early signs of lung cancer. One is called a fluorescence bronchoscopy, which uses blue and white light to examine the lining of the airways. The other is a new type of CT scan called a spiral CT scan.

People taking part in this trial will already have lower than normal lung function or COPD, and may already be having treatment for this. Half the people taking part will have yearly sputum tests for 5 years. Only those who have abnormal sputum test results will be asked to have a fluorescence bronchoscopy and CT scan. The other half will continue to have their usual care and a chest X-ray after 5 years.

The aim of the trial is to see if lung cancer can be picked up at a very early stage in the group of patients who have regular surveillance Open a glossary item.

Who can enter

You can enter this trial if you

  • Have a lower than normal lung function or have mild or moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - your doctor will advise you on this
  • Currently smoke and have smoked at least 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years or 40 cigarettes a day for 10 years, OR you have smoked this much in the past and have given up in the last 8 years
  • Are well enough to take part in this trial

You cannot enter this trial if you

  • Have had any other cancer in the last 5 years apart from non melanoma skin cancer
  • Have very poor lung function test Open a glossary item results
  • Have any other serious medical condition

Trial design

The trial will recruit 1,700 people in the UK over 2 years. As this is a randomised trial, you will be put into one of 2 groups by a computer. Neither you, nor your doctor, will be able to decide which group you are in.

If you are in group 1, you will continue to have standard care for your COPD and have a chest X-ray after 5 years. This is known as the control arm.

If you are in group 2, you will have surveillance Open a glossary item for 5 years. Each year, you will have a sputum test. If the sputum test result is normal, you will not have any more tests until the following year.

If the sputum test shows any abnormal cells, you will have a CT scan and a fluorescence bronchoscopy.

During the bronchoscopy, the doctor will take some samples of cells (biopsies) from your lungs. If they find any abnormal cells in the biopsies, the doctors will ask you to have bronchoscopies every few months.

If the biopsies show only normal cells, the doctors will ask you to have a bronchoscopy and a CT scan once a year for the next 5 years.

Medical care for your COPD will continue during the trial. If any of the tests show that you have lung cancer, you will start treatment immediately. And if you have any symptoms of lung cancer during the trial, you will have further tests straight away.

As part of this trial, the researchers will do a sub study to find out why some people decide not to take part.  If people don't want to join the trial, but agree to take part in the sub study, a member of the trial team will contact them to arrange an interview. The interview may be face to face or on the phone.

As part of the sub study, the researchers will also ask some people who have joined the trial about their experience of having screening.

Hospital visits

Before you take part in the trial, you will see the Research Nurse and have lung function tests Open a glossary item.

If you are in the control arm, there won’t be any extra hospital visits. If you are in the surveillance group, you will have at least one extra visit to the Research Nurse or specialist each year to have a sputum test. If any of your sputum tests show any abnormal cells, you will have a number of extra hospital visits to have the other tests. The exact number of hospital visits will depend on the results of your first bronchoscopy.

Side effects

Some people find it difficult to give a sputum specimen. To help you, the trial team may get you to breathe in some saline (salt water) from a machine called a nebuliser. A nebuliser makes a mist of tiny drops (an aerosol). This will loosen your sputum and help you to bring it up, but it may make you cough a bit.

Having a bronchoscopy can leave you with a sore throat for a few days and you may cough up a little bit of blood. There is more information about the side effects of having a bronchoscopy on CancerHelp UK.

If you have an X-ray or CT scans, you will be exposed to some radiation. But it isn’t a large enough amount for you to have any ill effects. Spiral CT scans involve less radiation than normal CT scans.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Stephen Spiro

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University College London (UCL)

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/06/022.

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 821

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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