Diagnosing Smoke-Less Lung Cancer

Never-smokers make up one-quarter of lung cancer patients

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

(RxWiki News) While smokers are the largest group of people diagnosed with lung cancer, surpirsingly individuals who have never smoked tobacco make up one quarter of all victims.

A new blood test is being developed to identify the disease in so-called "never-smokers".

Results from this investigation were presented at the the American Association for Cancer Research 102nd Annual Meeting.

"New blood test may be effective in detecting lung cancer."

Celera Corporation is investigating a panel of six biomarkers (substances that indicate a particular biological state such as disease) it has discovered is effective in identifying lung cancer.

The goal is to use this test on inpatients with suspicious chest scans using computed axial tomography (CT) technology.

Charlie Birse, Ph.D., Celera's associate director of product development explained, “In addition to intentional CTscans for lung cancer, many people undergo chest scans for heart disease prevention or other conditions and incidental nodules appear in the lungs that may or may not be benign,” said Birse.

“This panel of biomarkers would allow these imaging tests to be further evaluated and provide a degree of certainty in diagnosis.”

Birse and his colleagues examined hundreds of specimens to identify what biomarkers are present in smokers who had non-small cell lung cancer. Once the researchers established the biomarkers for smokers with the disease, they conducted additional studies in people who have never smoked.

The biomarker panel was shown to have a 85% sensitivity (chance a positive test is correct), and 83% specificity (chance a negative test is correct) in identifying lung cancer equally well in both smokers and nonsmokers.

All stages of lung cancer and cell types were distinguished.

“While promising, these findings still need to be confirmed in larger sets,” Birse said.

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. However it is still the most common cause of cancer death.

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Review Date: 
April 6, 2011
Last Updated:
April 7, 2011