A new type of blood test could help to identify lung cancer in its early stages. Researchers say that if initial results are confirmed, this could help to save millions of lives.
The test distinguishes lung cancer from other lung diseases like emphysema. It is known that people who smoke develop multiple changes in their genes; both those who get cancer and those who develop other lung diseases often have the same type of cell degeneration. But at a certain point, people who develop cancer exhibit different changes at the molecular level.
Dr. Paris Kosmidis, director of oncology at Hygeia hospital in Athens, Greece opined on the issue, but was not connected to the study in any way. “The point of this test is to catch patients at the turning point, before the cancer spreads. If we catch lung cancer early enough, we’ve proven in practice that we can cure it,” Kosmidis said.
So how does the new blood test work? Cancer cells produce different types and amounts of proteins in the blood, giving them a unique protein profile. The new test detects protein produced by cancer cells in the blood.
Researchers say that such protein signatures might be spotted long before the symptoms of lung cancer appear – and even before the disease is detectable in X rays. This would obviously give patients the possibility of early treatment and a chance to strengthen their survival.
For the study Dr. William Jacot, the study’s principal author and medical oncologist at Hospital Arnaud de Villeneuve, Montpelier, France and his colleagues analyses serum samples from 170 patients ( of which 147 had lung cancer and 23 had chronic lung disease), looking for the protein blue-print of cancer cells. Their test accurately identified lung cancer in nearly 90 per cent of the specimens tested.