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The 'Moon Shot' program seeks to establish the first protocol for the early detection of lung cancer in the world. This observational study pursues a very ambitious objective - to identify one or more biomarkers in blood that, in combination with a low radiation thorax CT, are able to detect lung cancer in the early stages.

The program, led from the United States by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and in which MD Anderson Madrid participates, along with other centers in France and China -one of the countries with the highest rate of smokers in the world -, aims to recruit a total of 10,000 volunteers who will receive annual spirometry, a low-dose chest CT and a blood test over a period of five years.

MD Anderson Madrid is committed to recruiting a total of 300 participants and has already managed to recruit 120, practically 50% of the target: "We are very satisfied as we started recruitment at the end of November with the aim of adding 75 volunteers, a quarter of the total, in six months ", says Dr. Natalia Carballo, head of the Radiation Oncology Service at MD Anderson Madrid and coordinator of the 'Moon Shot' project. "Now, not quite five months later, we have not only achieved our goal, but we have surpassed it," continues the specialist, who says she is pleasantly surprised by the growing awareness of the public in this regard.

Some good news that coincides with World Health Day, held on Saturday, April 7, is that with the implementation of this protocol for the early detection of lung cancer, one of the tumors whose mortality has increased in recent years, MD Anderson Madrid also accepts the challenge of contributing to improving the health of all the public in general.

Between 80% and 90% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking

In recent years, the incidence of lung cancer has increased exponentially in our country due, among other factors, to the increase in the number of female smokers diagnosed with this type of tumor. "Proportionally, women now smoke more than men, which is causing an increase not only in lung cancer, but also in head and neck and bladder cancer," explains Dr. Carballo.

Dr. Carballo emphasizes that "between 80% and 90% of lung cancer cases are due to smoking, which multiplies by nine the risk of this type of tumor." But, in addition, there are other predisposing factors to lung cancer such as passive exposure to tobacco smoke, environmental pollution (mainly exhaust fumes from diesel motor vehicles) or exposure to derivatives of substances such as asbestos, chromium, cadmium, arsenic, aromatic hydrocarbons or radon gas, among others.

The doctor also explains that there is a genetic component in the case of lung cancer, although the genetic mutation responsible for the occurrence of lung cancer at an early age has not yet been identified.

The problem is that, unlike other common tumors such as breast, colon or prostate cancer, in lung cancer there is no standardized screening protocol because, as Dr. Carballo points out, "the only test that has been demonstrated to reduce the mortality rate of lung cancer is the low-radiation chest CT, which has the disadvantage of diagnosing many false positives, i.e. of detecting a high number of benign lung nodules as malignant".

"Any smoker over 55 who has consumed more than 20 cigarettes a day for more than 30 years, or ex-smoker who stopped smoking less than 15 years ago" can participate in the study, explains Dr. Carballo, who also points out that it is not necessary to screen non-smokers, given that the risk for them, although it does exist, is very low.