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Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers
Over the past few months, several studies have identified ground-breaking new ways of testing for early stage lung cancer. Additionally, scientists have recently developed numerous promising treatment options for the life-threatening disease.
Lung cancer is a characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in the tissues of the organ. It is one of the most common cancers in the world, and is currently the leading cause of cancer related death in the U.S. among men and women alike.
The majority of cases are directly caused by smoking, although high levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure also lead to an increased risk of developing the disease.
Although lung cancer is one of the most deadly maladies on the planet, a recent study has shown that doctors are making progress in terms of diagnosing the disease earlier and developing more effective treatment options.
Researchers from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer analyzed data from more than 100,000 patients diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) over a 15 year period.
The study found that one-year survival rates increased from 13.2 percent in 1990 to nearly 20 percent in 2005, according to Health Day. Two-year survival rates rose from 4.5 percent to 7.8 percent in that time.
Hope in new testing
In the last year, scientists have developed numerous diagnostic tests and therapies that may help augment these numbers.
A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that a newly developed blood test may be an effective way of diagnosing early stage lung cancer while avoiding dangerous invasive procedures.
Steven Dubinett, professor of medicine and pathology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and other colleagues have assembled a 40-marker panel of lung cancer biomarkers that have shown considerable success in correctly diagnosing the disease.
In a trial involving over 140 patients, researchers were able to accurately identify lung cancer in more than 88 percent of cases. While the test is still in its preliminary stages, doctors hope that it will lead to fewer false positives and earlier, more precise diagnoses.
"Most of the biomarkers had to do with inflammation and other kinds of immunomodulatory approaches," explained Dr Matthew Meyerson, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, quoted by the news source.
"This is not intended yet for clinical testing but it shows the potential power of serum-based profiling for early detection of lung cancer," he added.
Meanwhile, a study conducted at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center has found that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) may be a therapeutic target for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.
Researchers have reportedly discovered a 93-gene signature related to EGFR mutations in lung cancer tumors. Doctors believe that the signature is a positive prognostic marker for patients with early stage forms of the disease.
"We hope this mutation signature will be able to define patients with these tumor types who will then respond to EGFR inhibition," said Pierre Saintigny, a research scientist at the center.
Saintigny and his colleagues hope that the EGFR-mutation signature will help guide treatment options and give doctors insight into the biology behind some lung cancer tumors.
Additionally, the presence of the gene signature has been directly linked to a patient's drug sensitivity to erlotinib and gefitinib, two of the most widely used lung cancer therapies on the market today.
As scientists continue to develop new testing methods and treatment options, the prognosis for lung cancer may become more positive.
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