News / Health

Scientists Work on Blood Test for Early Lung Cancer Detection

Jessica Berman

Scientists are developing a blood test to detect lung cancer, one of the most common and deadly cancers in the world.  The test, which looks for certain proteins in the blood, is designed to find tumors at their earliest, most treatable stage.

According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, claiming an estimated 1.5 million lives each year.  The disease is caused mainly by cigarette smoking.  Early detection followed by prompt treatment is essential to surviving this deadly, fast-growing cancer.  

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the northwestern U.S city of Seattle, Washington, report they have developed a new blood test for lung cancer proteins.  Those proteins are produced by tumor tissue early in the development of lung cancer and can be detected in plasma, a blood component that’s rich in proteins.  

The scientists say the cancer test is so sensitive, it can detect the presence of markers or signatures that suggest tumor activity before they can be seen by advanced imaging devices such as a CT scan, which can spot tumors only a few millimeters across.

According to Sam Hanash, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson. and a lead researcher on the lung cancer blood test, using CT scans to detect tiny tumors can save the lives of patients at risk of lung cancer. But he says CT screening has a down-side: a high percentage of its images reveal nodules that appear as potentially malignant tumors.

“...That necessitate surgery, that turns out to be benign and a lot of other potential complications. So there’s a need for a blood test so that we can make CT scans more reliable,” Hanash said.

Hanash says the lung cancer blood test looks for protein signatures of the disease similar to the way other cancer blood tests work, including the CA 125 test for ovarian cancer and the prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test for prostate cancer.

In initial experiments with mice, Hanash and his colleagues discovered protein markers by switching on genes that gave the animals lung cancer, and then switching off the cancer-causing genes.

Hanash says scientists next looked to see whether they could find the same cancer protein signatures in human lung cancer cells.

“And the answer was “Yes!”  So that was pretty satisfying that in fact we’re not dealing with a curiosity type of finding that only mice seem to display, but we are dealing with a real feature of cancer cells whether mice-derived or human-derived,” Hanash said.

Hanash says researchers detected protein biomarkers unique to a number of different lung tumors, as well as some of the molecular networks of genes that drive tumor development.

He says the next step is to develop a test that doctors can use with patients at risk for lung cancer, probably in about two years.

An article describing the development of a new diagnostic test for lung cancer protein signatures is published in the journal, Cancer Cell.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs