Brock, McMaster researchers on team that made cancer prediction breakthrough

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Brock, McMaster researchers on team that made cancer prediction breakthrough

Published on September 05 2013


A Brock University epidemiologist has created risk calculation software that can reduce surgical procedures by helping doctors know if nodules showing up on CT lung scans have a high probability of being cancerous.

Martin Tammemagi developed the model as part of a team of Canadian scientists whose findings appear today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tammemagi is the second author on their paper, “Probability of Cancer in Pulmonary Nodules Detected on First Screening Computed Tomography”.

“One of the goals of the model is to help reduce the number of needless tests,” said Tammemagi. “When we can identify with accuracy that a person’s nodule has low probability for lung cancer, then they’ll receive follow-ups that include fewer CT screens, less biopsies and less surgery. That will help minimize needless risk to the individual and needless suffering.”

Colleague Dr. John Goffin, associate professor of Oncology in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, explored the challenges that these scans present to medical oncologists, and how the new software will help.

“CT screening studies have used various criteria to define a ‘positive’ nodule which, in turn, leads to variable clinical testing. The nodule risk calculator will help to bring order to this chaos and provide clinicians with a rational, probabilistic guide to care.”

When a nodule shows up on a CT scan, clinicians or radiologists will enter its details into Tammemagi’s model, including: size; location (upper or lower chest); whether the nodule is solid, semi-solid or looks like ground glass.

Additional data - age, gender, family history, history of lung cancer, history of emphysema - are entered onto the spreadsheet, which then calculates the probability of the nodule being cancerous.