Less Invasive Diagnostic Test For Lung Cancer Being Studied

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Research presented at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2011 International Conference concluded that a minimally invasive test using cells from the interior of the nose might be useful in detecting lung cancer at an early stage. The earlier studies used gene expression difference in cells in the bronchial airway to identify lung cancer in the early stages. Using this model the researchers developed a hypothesis that “the upper airway epithelium of smokers with lung cancer displays a cancer-specific gene expression pattern, and that this airway gene expression signature reflects the changes that occur in lung tissue.”
Nasal epithelial cells were collected from 33 smokers who were undergoing medically-indicated bronchoscopies for suspected lung cancer. From this group 11 had benign disease, and 22 had lung cancer. Brushing were taken from the left and right nostril and profiled on microarrays, a process for studying gene expression change, to determine genes that differed in their expression between those with lung cancer and those with benign disease. One hundred seventy genes were discovered that differentially expressed between the two groups of patients. The researchers stated that results show an initial indication that simple nasal brushings could offer an alternative to lung biopsies or other invasive techniques used currently to diagnose lung cancer. A large study to validate the results from this pilot study is planned.

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