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Longitudinal multistage model for lung cancer incidence, mortality, and CT detected indolent and aggressive cancers.

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Math Biosci. 2012 Nov 240 (1).

It is currently not known whether most lung cancers detected by computerized tomography (CT) screening are aggressive and likely to be fatal if left untreated, or if a sizable fraction are indolent and unlikely to cause death during the natural lifetime of the individual. We developed a longitudinal biologically-based model of the relationship between individual smoking histories and the probability for lung cancer incidence, CT screen detection, lung cancer mortality, and other-cause mortality. The longitudinal model relates these different outcomes to an underlying lung cancer disease pathway and an effective other-cause mortality pathway, which are both influenced by the individual smoking history. The longitudinal analysis provides additional information over that available if these outcomes were analyzed separately, including testing if the number of CT detected and histologically-confirmed lung cancers is consistent with the expected number of lung cancers "in the pipeline". We assume indolent nodules undergo Gompertz growth and are detectable by CT, but do not grow large enough to contribute significantly to symptom-based lung cancer incidence or mortality. Likelihood-based model calibration was done jointly to data from 6878 heavy smokers without asbestos exposure in the control (placebo) arm of the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET); and to 3,642 heavy smokers with comparable smoking histories in the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS), a single-arm prospective trial of low-dose spiral CT screening for diagnosis of lung cancer. Model calibration was checked using data from two other single-arm prospective CT screening trials, the New York University Lung Cancer Biomarker Center (NYU) (n=1,021), and Moffitt Cancer Center (Moffitt) cohorts (n=677). In the PLuSS cohort, we estimate that at the end of year 2, after the baseline and first annual CT exam, that 33.0 (26.9, 36.9)% of diagnosed lung cancers among females and 7.0 (4.9,11.7)% among males were overdiagnosed due to being indolent cancers. At the end of the PLuSS study, with maximum follow-up of 5.8 years, we estimate that due to early detection by CT and limited follow-up, an additional 2.2 (2.0,2.4)% of all diagnosed cancers among females and 7.1 (6.7,8.0)% among males would not have been diagnosed in the absence of CT screening. We also find a higher apparent cure rate for lung cancer among CARET females than males, consistent with the larger indolent fraction of CT detected and histologically confirmed lung cancers among PLuSS females. This suggests that there are significant gender differences in the aggressiveness of lung cancer. Females may have an inherently higher proportion of indolent lung cancers than males, or aggressive lung cancers may be brought into check by the immune system more frequently among females than males.

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