Researchers nab grant to develop blood test for lung cancer

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The CHEST Foundation has awarded a Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) research team a $100,000 grant to develop a blood test to help diagnose lung cancer in patients before they undergo a biopsy.

Such a test could fill the gaps left by screening CT and may reduce the number of biopsies performed for benign nodules.

“Only one of 10 nodules identified on CT scans eventually prove to be lung cancer,” Sai Yendamuri, MD, attending surgeon in the department of thoracic surgery, said in a statement issued by RPCI of Buffalo, N.Y. “And while biopsies are the sure way to detect a cancer, procedures are much more involved when it comes to lung masses than they are for breast and colon masses.”

Yendamuri and his team will first find blood-based biomarkers for the disease, focusing on microRNAs, small molecules which regulate other molecules.

MicroRNAs are emerging as promising biomarkers for human health as well as disease states. Preliminary work by Yendamuri yielded data that suggest microRNA profiling of whole blood can distinguish—with high accuracy—people with lung cancer from people without lung cancer. This current project aims to expand that preliminary work to determine which microRNAs or signatures of microRNAs are the best predictors of disease state.

“At that point we will create a whole blood microRNA assay for lung cancer,” Yendamuri said. “We will then validate our findings by checking for these biomarkers in blood samples of lung cancer patients both before and after resection surgery, to understand whether these signatures represent cancer presence versus cancer susceptibility.”

If successful, such a test will potentially help with early diagnosis of lung cancer, and improve cure rates for the disease, according to RPCI.

The CHEST Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians, an 18,300-member international medical specialty society.