Gene expression patterns in lung airway cells from smokers may aid the early detection of lung cancer, according to a study in the March 2007 issue of Nature Medicine.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the world, and the high mortality rate results in part from a lack of tools to diagnose the disease at an early stage. As cigarette smoke is a well-known risk factor, Avrum Spira and colleagues investigated whether or not gene expression in normal epithelial cells from the airways of smokers suspected to have lung cancer could be used as a biomarker of disease status. The biomarker the authors studied was around 80% accurate in predicting which patients actually had lung cancer and was particularly accurate in early stage disease. When the biomaker was combined with cytopathology of lower airway cells obtained at bronchoscopy, 95% of cancers were detected.
The authors suggest that gene expression in normal airway epithelial cells can serve as a lung cancer biomarker that may lead to a reduction in mortality by helping clinicians diagnose the disease earlier than is currently possible.
Avrum Spira (Boston University, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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