HIV Type Blood Test Detects Lung Cancer Before Symptoms Occur

According to the September 15, 2008, online Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and University of Michigan, have found that lung cancer produces antibodies much like HIV. Samir M. Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues discovered that lung cancer, like HIV, signals the body by producing antibodies, before a patient develops symptoms– as early as a year sooner than most episodes of lung cancer are even found. Dr. Hanash, head of the Molecular Diagnostic Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, says, “It is an important step toward developing a biomarker-based blood test for the early detection of lung cancer."

Two previously identified antigens, to which the body produces antibodies, known as annexin1 and 14-3-3 theta; as well as a newly identified lung-cancer antigen called LAMR1 were targeted to test the researcher’s theory. The group analyzed blood from 85 current or past smokers, collected within a year of lung cancer diagnosis. They also looked at 85 people who did not develop lung cancer. The scientists found that 51% of the antibodies were present in those who were diagnosed later with lung cancer.

Dr. Hanash says, "The fact that we got a signal like this with just three biomarkers is very significant. If we can enlarge this panel by adding a few more, we could develop a blood test with sufficient sensitivity and specificity for detecting lung cancer much earlier than current screening methods allow." Suggestions include using the blood rest, in conjunction with CT scans for people at high risk for lung cancer to develop a means of early detection and treatment. It is expected that the test may be available for use within five years.

The team would like to take things further by studying patients who undergo CT scans. "We want to see how much we could improve the sensitivity and specificity of CT scans with the addition of the blood test. For example, could the blood test detect early lung cancer in someone who tested negative on a CT scan? Or, could we use it to shed light on a suspicious lesion to help determine whether it may be cancer?"

Dr. Hanash says it would be “phenomenal” if their studies could provide a way to detect other forms of cancer…”with the tiniest drop of blood we could have a screening test for all the common types of cancer to catch them at their earliest stages, when cure rates are high."

Early cancer detection provides leads to improved survival rates. The recent identification and use of newer, as well as combination chemotherapy drugs, has greatly improved survival in patients with breast, colon, and early stage cancers of all types. Much research has been devoted to cancer, and the new study is a welcome addition to several recent breakthroughs in cancer research.

Source: An 'HIV-test' equivalent for early detection of lung cancer


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