Background: Results of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are needed to assess the efficacy of lung cancer screening with low-dose chest computed tomography (CT) in reducing lung cancer mortality. We report design and results of enrolment and baseline screening test in the ITALUNG trial, a RCT.
Methods: Invitation letters were sent to subjects of 55-69 years of age clients of 269 general practitioners. Smokers or former smokers of at least 20 pack/years were eligible and after written consent were randomized in an active arm undergoing a low-dose CT annually for 4 years and in a control arm receiving no screening. Management of positive screening test was carried out using follow-up low-dose CT, fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, fine needle aspiration cytology and fiber optic bronchoscopy.
Results: A sample of 3206 eligible subjects was achieved by sending 71,232 letters (enrolment efficacy = 4.5%). Subjects in control (n = 1593) and active (n = 1613) arm were balanced for age, gender and smoking history. Two-hundred and seven (12.8%) subjects did not undergo CT after randomization. The baseline screening test was positive in 426 (30.3%) of 1406 subjects. Twenty-one lung cancers (prevalence = 1.5%) were found in 20 subjects: 18 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), 2 small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and a case of typical carcinoid. Ten NSCLC (47.6%) were in Stage I. Sixteen fine needle aspirations were performed in 15 lung cancers, with a positive result in 12 (75%) cases. One biopsy only (6.3%) was performed on a benign lesion. Seventeen lung cancers (81%) were treated with surgical resection in 16 subjects. One subject underwent surgery for a benign lesion (5.5% of all surgical resections).
Conclusions: Recruitment by mail of high risk subjects for a lung cancer screening RCT is feasible but not efficient. Results of the baseline screening test in the active arm of the ITALUNG trial are substantially in line with those of RCT and observational studies.