North German Lung Cancer Centers start the HANSE Lung Check

Start of the HANSE prevention program with free lung check for former and active smokers.

 

Early in the summer of 2021, the largest German program yet for the early detection of lung and cardiac diseases will start with more than 12,000 test subjects at three North German sites of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL). The Lung Cancer Centers will invite men and women between the ages of 55 and 79 years who, as smokers and ex-smokers, have a greater risk of getting lung cancer to attend a free lung check. Up to 5,000 participants will thereby receive a free examination in a modern low-dose CT scan in a mobile study unit moving between Hannover Medical School (MHH), the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck Campus (UKSH) and the LungenClinic Grosshansdorf (near Hamburg). The tests will be carried out by an interdisciplinary team of experienced doctors from the pneumology and radiology clinics at the three DZL sites.

 

The HANSE prevention program will be carried out under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jens Vogel-Claussen (MHH), Dr. Sabine Bohnet (UKSH Lübeck Campus) and Prof. Dr. Martin Reck (LungenClinic Grosshansdorf) from Summer 2021 to Summer 2023.

Registration for smokers and ex-smokers for the free lung check can also be carried out online under www.hanse-lungencheck.de

Lung cancer screening in Germany – the status quo

Germany can look back on a lengthy history of cancer screening programs. The main focus areas of these screening programs are types of cancer such as breast cancer, colon cancer and more recently also cervical cancer and skin cancer. In women, lung cancer follows breast cancer as the type most frequently leading to death, but in men, it is the commonest cause of death by cancer. It is scientifically proven that lung cancer screening by low-dose computer tomography (CT) scan can lower the lung cancer mortality rate in former and active heavy smokers through earlier initial diagnosis. However, up to now early detection screening of lung cancer has not yet been established. A national lung cancer screening program, that will be covered by the statutory health insurance companies, is however not expected to be realised before 2022.

Launch of the HANSE Lung Check

Against this background, as a pilot study, the HANSE Lung Check should provide proof that an integrated and effective lung cancer screening program can be carried out in Germany.  In addition, a wide-ranging scientific support program will check various possibilities to improve the effectiveness of early detection for lung cancer and other chronic diseases. The study will be supported and sponsored by the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) as well as the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca within the framework of the Lung Ambition Alliance, a partnership between industry and science.

Early detection saves lives

On this subject, Prof. Dr. med. Jens Vogel-Claussen, scientific leader of the study, explains: “I am very grateful to all those involved, the Lung Ambition Alliance and the DZL, for this important initiative. Based on my many years of experience in the field of lung research, I feel very strongly about lung cancer screening.“ Professor Vogel-Claussen stresses that: „lung cancer often causes no complaints in the early stages, which is why more than half of all lung cancer patients are only diagnosed at the metastasized stage.“ Early detection of the tumor disease using modern low-dose computer tomography therefore improves the prospects of healing and can save lives. „With the HANSE Lung Check, we wish to contribute towards the timely implementation of an appropriate screening program for high-risk patients in Germany within the framework of the statutory health insurance system. I would also especially like to thank the volunteer participants from Northern Germany, who will be actively involved. They will be making a large contribution towards their own personal health care and also particularly for our society”, the radiologist added.

Patron Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen

The prominent patron of the HANSE study is Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen. His ability to also present serious topics with ease and humor makes him an ideal ambassador for the study. With his commitment to the subjects of smoking and health care, he is an important success factor, interesting many smokers in participating in the study and the free lung check.

“Supposing that your body was a used car – would you buy it?“  Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen asks in his video message on www.hanse-lungencheck.de. And to all those people with an increased risk of lung cancer, the prominent doctor advises: „Take advantage of free screening and simply get checked up!“

The HANSE Lung Check

In this screening program, the feasibility and effectiveness of a model-based as opposed to a more traditional risk assessment for lung cancer is examined, since especially people with an increased risk of lung cancer profit from a screening program. At the same time, possible further lung or cardiac diseases can be examined based on specific changes in the computer tomography (CT). In the HANSE Lung Check, the latest CT technology is used. This applies a particularly low dose of radiation, which is about one-tenth of the average annual natural radiation in Germany. The image data will be evaluated by experienced radiologists trained in this field, supported by the latest image evaluation software using artificial intelligence. Characteristics, like changes in the blood or respiratory air will also be used for the early detection of lung cancer.

A total of around 350,000 people will be approached in the greater city areas around Hanover, Hamburg and Lübeck, either in writing or by their general practitioner or specialist, to take part in the prophylactic program, in order to achieve a total of 12,100 test subjects/study participants. For the HANSE Lung Check, smokers/ex-smokers aged between 55 and 79 years can also register directly online at www.hanse-lungencheck.de. The project is designed in such a way that the sites at Hannover Medical School, the LungenClinic Grosshansdorf and the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck Campus, all contribute together to the data collection. As soon as a test person registers his/her participation, he/she will receive a personal risk assessment of the probability of contracting lung cancer in the coming years. Participants with a particularly high risk of contracting lung cancer will then be invited to undergo an examination in the mobile study truck. Each participant will be given a proposed date for an appointment at the center closest to his/her home.

What can the participant expect from the medical examination?

In the mobile study truck, test participants with a particularly high risk of lung cancer will undergo a low-dose CT examination. With this gentle imaging technique, the test participants receive detailed information about any lung disease that may be present and can then be medically treated. In addition, information about cardiovascular diseases (arteriosclerosis) can be derived from the tests. All study results will be evaluated by an interdisciplinary team of experienced lung specialists and radiologists using the latest technology. The results of the examination will be sent to the participant and his/her general practitioner.

Text: The Hanse Study Team