Blood Test May Sound Early Cancer Alarm

Lung cancer may be detected early with simple blood test

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Finding lung cancer early can save a life. Screening options, however, are costly, invasive or both. An altered protein, found in the blood, may be key to a simpler, more affordable option.

Ciz1 is a protein involved in cell growth and division. A mutated form of this protein appears to be an indicator of lung cancer, according to a study out of England.

Through an easy blood test, patients can find out if their cells have the abnormal protein. The approach may pave the way to lung cancer diagnosis that costs less and does not require surgery.

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Dawn Coverley, PhD, lecturer in cell biology at the University of York in the United Kingdom, and chief scientific officer with Cizzle Biotechnology Ltd., and her colleagues discovered that people with stage 1 lung cancer have an altered form of the Ciz1 protein.

Ciz1 is a circulating biomarker, meaning that it can be detected in the blood. Dr. Coverley and her team analyzed plasma from two sets of patients. Information on tumor type and stage was collected previously by clinical collaborators. Dr.Coverley said that the set of 160 samples were from one hospital, and these were of the most value for the study.

Based on these samples, the blood test correctly identified 95 percent of patients with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer.

“Altered forms of this protein are present in cancer cells, and one specific form is prevalent in lung cancers,” said Dr. Coverley. “This means by looking for variant Ciz1 in the blood we can pick out people who have small tumors in their lungs, without the need to take a biopsy or undergo surgery.”

Dr. Coverley predicts the test will be especially effective when combined with X-ray or CT imaging. “It will offer doctors an alternative way to test whether an abnormal growth is cancerous,” she said. “For the patient, this means many could avoid invasive diagnostic procedures altogether."

Fred R. Hirsch, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pathology at University of Colorado Cancer Center in Aurora, told dailyRx News, “Diagnosing early stage lung cancer is extremely important as this gives a potential for cure. About 70-75 percent of patients with early stage disease are cured by surgery alone if they get diagnosed early enough. It has been a challenge to find a biomarker to detect lung cancer in an early stage. The data from this study is promising and needs to be validated further in a prospective studies.”

Dr. Hirsch added  the approach of finding a marker in peripheral blood is appealing because it is low-risk and easy to conduct.

He also said this blood test method for cancer screening might be used together with CT scanning “in order to bring down the high false positive rate reported on screened-detected CT nodules.”

The study was published in October in in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was funded in part by Cizzle Biotech, which is a spin-out company of the University of York.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 24, 2012
Last Updated:
October 29, 2012