Impact for patients

Case Study

Looking at lung cancer without surgery

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death. Giving patients the best possible treatment depends on understanding how far the disease has spread through the body at diagnosis.

The standard way to assess how far lung cancer had spread involved invasive surgery to count the number of chest lymph nodes that the cancer had spread to. This approach was not very sensitive and required the patient to undergo surgery.

Cambridge cancer researchers led the international NIHR Cambridge BRC and NIHR Health Technology Assessment ASTER trial. Using an alternative, non-surgical approach called endosonography (an endoscopy combined with ultrasound to obtain images of the internal organ), the procedure was found to be more accurate, a safer way to assess the spread of the lung cancer and also gave patients a much better quality of life.

Not only are the results to using endosonography more accurate, but is also much cheaper than a surgical procedure. As a result this new approach has replaced surgery as the front line test for lung cancer spread and over 100 centres now provide this service in the UK, cutting the rate of surgical lymph node staging in the UK from 3,020/year in 2010 to 1,854 in 2015.