German Researchers Discover Potential New Blood Test for Early Lung Cancer Detection
Todays article in the Medical Technology Blog is provided by Sophie Sanderson who is the editor of Diagnostics Focus, please read on…
A move to tackle the rates of lung cancer detection and survival by researchers in Germany seems to have led to an interesting new test that could potentially help save the lives of smokers in the future. The blood test, which is the result of work carried out by colleagues from the University of Cologne and University of Bonn, would make it easier to detect a lung tumour and improve the chances of survival.
The aim of the research was to develop a subsequent test that was not only able to differentiate lung cancer patients from healthy subjects, but also from persons with chronic lung diseases. The blood of over 200 smokers was studied, half of whom had lung cancer. Examining the research subjects’ blood using biochips for certain nucleic acids led to the finding of typical patters. Interestingly, over 480 molecules were recognised whose concentration in the blood changes when a person develops lung cancer. These nucleic acid molecules can be seen in the blood cells either in increased or decreased quantities and form in the body when certain genes are transcribed. In patients with lung cancer, a typical pattern emerges that can be detected with a measuring programme.
The stakes are huge and the development of a test for lung cancer offers huge potential. Lung cancer is already the second most common cancer in the UK, and in many cases the cause can often be linked back to smoking. Although people who have never smoked can also get lung cancer, nine out of ten cases are related to smoking. There are four different stages to lung cancer, going from stage I where the cancer is small and only in one area of the lung, to stage IV where the cancer has spread to another part of the body. Dr Joachim Schultze comments that “The prognosis for patients in stage III and IV is still very poor even today; even with the most modern therapies, the point of death can only be postponed.” When considering stage I lung cancer, it can be treated surgically and in most cases it can be cured, however, a tumour is detected in only about 15 per cent of all such cases.
It is anticipated that if a boost to the detection rates could be achieved with the use of a screening blood test, it could lead to an increase in survival rates. In the future, there is the potential for a lung cancer screening test to become part of routine practice. Whether this can be achieved remains to be seen, but for researchers the positive results will serve as an encouraging development.
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