Cambridge-led study introduces kidney scans to Leeds lung screening trial

CT scanning machine (credit: Bokskapet, Pixabay)
A new study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, will investigate the feasibility of developing a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial.

People taking part in a pioneering lung screening trial in Leeds will now also be checked for kidney cancer following additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The new study, led by Professor Grant Stewart, who co-leads our Urological Malignancies Programme, will investigate whether an extra scan for kidney cancer can be effectively introduced to mobile lung screening programmes.

Kidney cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the UK. Around 6 in 10 people with kidney cancer do not experience any symptoms, and they are often only diagnosed during tests for another condition or reason.

This means over a third of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when the cancer is more difficult to treat. Just 6 in 10 patients with kidney cancer live for five years after diagnosis.

Since November 2018, the Leeds Lung Health Check has checked 6,652 people for early signs of lung disease. The trial focuses specifically on people aged 55-80 who smoke or used to smoke, as they are at highest risk of developing lung cancer.

People in this group also have a high risk of developing kidney cancer. From April 2021, those taking part in the trial will have the opportunity to benefit from an additional scan that can find kidney cancer at a very early stage when no symptoms are present.

Grant Stewart, Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Cambridge said: “Kidney cancer is currently a silent and lethal condition. It is often not diagnosed until the disease has passed the point at which we can easily cure it. Given that kidney cancer is largely curable if identified at an early stage when no symptoms are present, there has been international interest for many years amongst the scientific community in developing a potential screening programme for this ‘silent’ cancer.

“To establish if screening is possible, we will piggyback on the Leeds Lung Health Check and offer an extra CT scan for kidney cancer to those taking part in this important clinical trial. The extra scan will take just 10 seconds.

“The Yorkshire Kidney Screening Trial will be the first study in the world to address uncertainties and test the clinical rationale and logistics required to see if we can develop a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial within a lung health check programme. By the end of the feasibility study, we will understand whether we can and should undertake a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial as we’ll know whether people are likely to take up this extra scan.”

The Leeds Lung Health Check is one of the largest lung screening trials in the UK. The multimillion-pound programme, funded entirely by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, aims to test screening in community settings and provide information for future lung screening programmes.

The launch of this study follows on from a paper written by Professor Stewart and colleagues discussing the evidence for introducing screening for kidney cancer which was published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology in August 2020, and a survey revealing positive public attitudes to kidney cancer screening which was published in BMC Urology last year.

22 Feb 2021