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Tests Might Someday Help Spot Early Lung Cancer

January 11, 2012
By

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) — Lung cancer is the leading
cancer killer in the world, and only about 15 percent of cases are
diagnosed at an early stage, when it’s most treatable.

But two preliminary studies that are scheduled to be presented at a
medical meeting this week suggest that scientists are moving closer to
developing new screening tests that could potentially detect lung cancer
in its earliest stages.

In one report, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York
City evaluated tissue samples from healthy smokers and were able to
identify precancerous changes in the cells lining the airways leading to
the lungs.

“We found that the earliest molecular changes related to lung cancer
are present in the airway epithelium of healthy smokers who do not have
any detectable microscopic abnormalities in the lung tissue,” said study
author Dr. Renat Shaykhiev, an assistant professor of genetic medicine at
Weill Cornell.

Shaykhiev added that the findings “may lead to the development of novel
strategies to prevent lung cancer development at the very early stages,
before the development of clinically detectable cancer.”

In the second study, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center in Houston developed a blood test that can analyze and
determine the exact genetic mutations of circulating tumor cells in a
sample size as small as three cells.

“We have developed an extremely sensitive test that could be able to
detect mutations present in circulating tumor cells, and we are hoping
that from their characterization we would be able to understand
diagnostic, prognostic and predictive markers,” researcher Heidi Erickson,
an assistant professor of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology at MD
Anderson, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news
release.

“By being able to collect a blood sample from a patient instead of
having to do a biopsy, we’ll have an opportunity to monitor the patient
throughout treatment in an easier way,” Erickson said in the release.

One leading lung cancer researcher said the findings, while still very
preliminary, are particularly relevant in light of a 2011 groundbreaking
study, which showed that screening current and former heavy smokers with
three annual low-dose CT scans reduced the risk of death from lung cancer
by 20 percent, compared with three annual chest X-rays.

“More than a quarter of patients had one or more pulmonary nodules, but
96 percent of these nodules were not cancer,” said Dr. Paul Bunn, the
James Dudley chair in cancer research at the University of Colorado School
of Medicine, in Denver. “So what we’d like to have is some kind of test
that, if you have a CT scan and a nodule is found, would help distinguish
whether or not that nodule is cancerous.”

Bunn noted that other scientists are working on detecting early lung
cancer based on proteins in the blood, as well as volatile organic
compounds in breath, and that all of the research is still many years away
from yielding commercially available tests.

“We make advances one step at a time and these are first steps, but
that’s important,” Bunn said.

The findings were to be presented this week at a lung cancer meeting in
San Diego that was jointly sponsored by the American Association for
Cancer Research and the International Association for the Study of Lung
Cancer. Data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more on lung cancer, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/tests-might-someday-help-spot-early-lung-cancer-140408867.html

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