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Specific Proteins in Blood May Indicate Lung Cancer

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According to a recent article published in BioMedCentral (BMC) Cancer, distinctive proteins that can be measured in a patient’s blood may help detect lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. In fact, more people die from lung cancer each year than from breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. One reason that lung cancer mortality is so high is the lack of effective screening. At present, standard screening is not able to detect lung cancer early enough to aid in improving survival. Therefore, effective and financially feasible screening for patients at a high risk of developing cancer is under evaluation.

It has been recognized that specific proteins are often produced and released by cancer cells and/or other cells in the body of a patient who has cancer. If researchers can determine which of these proteins are indicative of cancer, future screening techniques may focus on a simple blood test. However, to be effective, these proteins must reveal the presence of cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

Researchers recently identified protein “profiles”, or specific proteins, that appear to indicate the presence of lung cancer in patients, as well as distinguish between lung cancer and other conditions. A clinical study was recently performed that included evaluation of 84 proteins with potential roles in the identification of lung cancer. The study included blood samples from 24 patients who were newly diagnosed with lung cancer, 24 healthy individuals, and 32 patients with a lung condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Overall, seven proteins demonstrated a significant difference between lung cancer patients compared to healthy individuals. All 56 individuals without cancer (healthy individuals and those with COPD) were correctly identified by protein analysis, and over 60% of lung cancers were correctly identified.

The researchers concluded that, although further evaluation is necessary, these results add to a growing body of evidence that protein analysis from blood samples may provide beneficial screening measures in the future. Through accurate screening measures, long-term survival may ultimately be improved for patients with lung cancer. Patients at a high risk of developing lung cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating screening measures for lung cancer. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: Gao W-M, Kuick R, Orchekowski R, et al. Distinctive serum protein profiles involving abundant proteins in lung cancer patients based upon antibody microarray analysis. BMC Cancer. 2005; 5:110. doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-110.

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