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Coughing up lung cancer

Karl B. Hille, The Examiner

Jan 30, 2007 3:00 AM (1 day ago)

Current rank: # 781 of 16,073 articles

BALTIMORE - What you cough up in the morning could help diagnose lung cancer, according to research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

That’s because some material coughed up along with phlegm could include cells missing their tumor suppression genes, according to a release from the school.

“Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the world for men and for women,” said Dr. Feng Jiang, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Currently only an invasive biopsy of lung tissue can identify lung cancer with certainty, he said.

Jiang and other researchers at the school are developing an inexpensive and noninvasive genetic probe to help diagnose early stage lung cancer in current and former smokers. In the Jan. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, they reported their fledgling test, designed to check whether two genes believed to be tumor suppressors are deleted in cells found in sputum, and identified 76 percent of stage one lung cancer patients whose tumors also showed the same genetic loss.

They are now expanding their test to screen for up to eight genes and improve the accuracy of the test, Jiang said.

The simple DNA analysis would be more cost-effective and less painful than removing a piece of suspect lung tissue to test for cancer, he said.

Earlier tests on sputum coughed up by smokers were only 47 percent reliable.

“Most heavy smokers never develop lung cancer, even though cells in their airways show genetic damage,” Jiang said. “The trick is to find the genes that are only cancer-related.”

Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to survival, Jiang said.

Each year, 213,380 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, and 160,390 people die from the disease.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, and a researcher from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center participated with University of Maryland investigators in the study.



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