Research on Lung Cancer Screening

In 2006, the National Lung Screening Trials (NLST) published clear and compelling evidence about the value of CT lung screening. This study of more than 53,000 current and former smokers found that CT screening significantly reduced the rate of deaths from lung cancer, as well as deaths from all causes overall. This represents a significant advance compared to the previous standard-of-care, chest X-ray, which has not been shown to save lives from lung cancer.

Based on the landmark NLST, guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society in 2013 now recommend CT screening for:

  • current or former smokers aged 55-74 with a 30-pack-year smoking history,
  • people who have a strong family history of lung cancer, asbestos exposure, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • anyone who may be considered high risk on an individual basis by their physicians.

The CT Lung Cancer Screening Program at NYP/Columbia offers state-of-the-art, low-dose CT screening to individuals at high risk, based on the criteria above. This program includes subspecialty-trained chest radiologists as well as Board-certified pulmonologists, oncologists, and thoracic surgeons. Advanced low-dose equipment delivers less than 20% of the radiation dose used in an average diagnostic chest CT exam.

Most insurance carriers now cover CT screening for lung cancer in patients at high risk. Call 212.326.8505 for information or to schedule your CT screening.

Although the evidence supporting CT screening for lung cancer is now clear, the course of monitoring and treatment is often not straightforward should a nodule be found. Not all cancers grow aggressively, and today's tests are not able to reliably distinguish non-invasive from aggressive lung cancers.

Many researchers are now working to develop tools to differentiate the types of nodules; at Columbia, we are working to develop molecular tests to distinguish aggressive from noninvasive cancers. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, our team performs translational research studies to identify the mechanisms and biomarkers associated with the progression of lung cancer. The research team includes experts in cancer biology research, pathology, thoracic oncology, thoracic surgery, pulmonary medicine, and radiology.

With the creation of the Cecily and Robert Harris Pulmonary Diagnostic Center in 2007 and additional support from the Harris family during 2008, pulmonary specialties at NYP/Columbia consolidated evaluation, diagnostic, rehabilitation, and clinical consultation services into one suite and added sophisticated equipment and research capabilities. The latest addition to this full-service pulmonary facility is an opto-electronic plethysmography (OEP) system.