Identifying New Biomarkers to Detect Lung Cancer Earlier

Source: NIH National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Prevention 

Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide killing 1.8 million people each year, is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the chances for a cure are limited.

In the United States, almost 60% of people diagnosed with localized lung and bronchus cancer are likely to survive for 5 years. This is nearly 10 times more than those who are not diagnosed until their cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, who have a 5-year relative survival of 6.3%. Right now, more than half of lung cancers are diagnosed at this late state.

Researchers are working to change that with a precision approach to early detection.

“Detecting lung early is very important for decreasing mortality,” said Jennifer Beane, Ph.D., a computational biologist at Boston University School of Medicine. “If you detect lung cancers early, you can resect them for cure.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening by low-dose computed tomography (CT) for adults aged 50 to 80 years with a 20 pack-year smoking history (averaging a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years) who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. But these criteria don’t cover everyone who develops lung cancer.

“Only 25% to 30% of patients who have lung cancer would have been captured by the current lung cancer screening guidelines,” said Ehab Billatos, M.D., a pulmonologist at Boston University School of Medicine. “We’re missing a lot of patients.”

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