Nasal Biomarker in Smokers Could Predict Lung Cancer

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Clinical recommendations encourage high-risk smokers to undergo lung cancer screening via computed tomography.
Clinical recommendations encourage high-risk smokers to undergo lung cancer screening via computed tomography.

A new test for a genomic biomarker could allow a nasal swab from patients suspected of having developed lung cancer to determine whether disease is present rather than costly, invasive testing.1

Results from this study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, could allow clinicians to accurately identify patients at low risk of having lung cancer, and thereby avoid undergoing expensive, invasive procedures.

Clinical recommendations encourage high-risk current and former smokers to undergo routine imaging via computed tomography to screen for lung cancer. The screen reveals pulmonary lesions or nodules in the lung. Invasive procedures, such as surgical biopsy of the lung, is needed to confirm diagnosis and frequently indicate benign lesions.

This predictive tool was developed to address the need for accurate assessment of lesions that spare patients with suspect lesions from undergoing invasive, costly procedures.

Because bronchial and nasal epithelial gene expressions are similarly altered by exposure to cigarette smoke, the researchers sought to determine if cancer-associated gene expression could be detected in the nasal epithelium.

First, the researchers examined brushings of nasal epithelium from current and former smokers undergoing diagnostic evaluation for suspicious lung lesions. They discovered that smoking injuries associated with lung cancer extend to the nasal epithelium, from which a biomarker for detecting malignancy could be obtained.

The researchers suggest that testing for molecular changes in this “field of injury” allows clinicians to rule out presence of the disease without the patient undergoing an invasive procedure.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health Early Detection Research Network supported this research.

Reference

1. The AEGIS Study Team. Shared gene expression alterations in nasal and bronchial epithelium for lung cancer detection. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2017 Feb 27. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djw327 [Epub ahead of print]

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