November is lung cancer awareness month, as well as the month of the Great American Smokeout, on November 17. According to the American Lung Association, smoking is a main cause of both small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, the leading cancer killer in the United States. Smoking contributes to 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women, and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men.
Many clinical trials at Yale are aiming to find new and effective ways to help smokers to quit. Participating in these trials not only helps investigators advance the treatment of tobacco addiction, but also can provide smokers with the tools they need to stop smoking. Lisa Fucito, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Tobacco Treatment Service, is overseeing three clinical trials, conducted through the Tobacco Service, that are currently open to smokers who want to quit.
Two of the trials are open for smokers who come to Smilow Cancer Hospital to receive lung cancer screening. One trial, the Personalized Intervention Program, is part of the Yale SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) in Lung Cancer, the result of an $11 million grant from the National Cancer Institute which aims to spur collaborations on projects focused on non-small cell lung cancer between experts in oncology, immunobiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, pathology, epidemiology, and addiction science. In the study, researchers are testing different types of behavioral counseling, and tracking health markers that are linked to future potential health problems such as lung cancer, and may improve as a result of quitting smoking. Participants must be willing to talk to a tobacco treatment specialist about their smoking, have blood drawn, and take a computer-based questionnaire. Through the study, participants receive the nicotine patch for eight weeks, and five counseling sessions. The second trial for smokers receiving lung cancer screening tests different combinations of treatments to help individuals quit smoking. Participants receive a single counseling session and may also receive nicotine replacement therapy.
In a third trial, Fucito is examining the intersection between smoking and drinking alcohol, to determine if integrating treatment for both could be more effective than treating each separately. “We know that when people are trying to quit smoking, and they drink at a certain level, they tend not to be successful,” says Fucito, with the same proving to be true to those who smoke while trying to reduce their drinking. In the study, participants will all receive the smoking cessation aid Chantix, and several weeks of counseling. To be eligible, participants must report both drinking and smoking regularly, but must only be motivated to change one of those behaviors.
Behind the science of all of these trials is one vital message: “Quitting smoking is the single most important step smokers can take to reduce their chance of developing lung cancer,” Fucito says.