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'Blood Test Could Provide Lung Cancer Early Warning'


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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.j ... cer102.xml


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The new test will be used on patients for the first time next year.

Scientist have found that scraps of genetic material - called microRNAs - that turn genes on and off are released by cancer cells to circulate in the blood, where they can be detected more easily than proteins.

Now a study by a Chinese team published in the journal Cell Research report findings that "pave the way for a revolutionary non-invasive diagnostic tool."

Recent studies were unable to rule out the possibility that these genetic scraps appeared as a result of contamination. Nor did they look at all of these molecules in the blood.

Now Dr Chen-Yu Zhang and colleagues at Nanjing University, Jiangsu, are the first to comprehensively characterise the molecules in the blood of healthy subjects and patients with lung cancer, colorectal cancer and diabetes, this time ruling out any chance of contamination.

Now they have found the profiles of the genetic scraps, which are remarkably stable, can be used as 'fingerprints' for cancer and disease.

"The first commercial diagnostic kit will be approved early next year which is for non-small cell lung cancer," said Dr Zhang.

In Britain, 40,000 people are affected by the lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of 15 per cent. If it is diagnosed early, the survival rate increases to 50 per cent so the new test, for one of the two common forms of the disease (non small cell lung cancer) could boost the survival three fold if it is shown to work.

Even though smoking causes about 90 per cent of all lung cancer cases, only about 10 to 15 per cent of heavy smokers will develop lung cancer.

That is the reason that scientists are looking for new techniques that will allow us to pick out the 10 to 15 per cent of individuals at highest risk for lung cancer

" No serum-based (blood) test is currently suitable for widespread use in diseases diagnosis, particularly in early tumour detection," said Dr Zhang of the School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University. "Our goal therefore was to discover a novel class of serum biomarkers for clinic uses, even for drug screening and personalised medicine."

"Almost everyone thought it was a crazy idea that RNA stably exist in serum or plasma when we started this work several years ago," said co-author Mr Xi Chen. "Since serum is full of RNAses, enzymes which digests all RNAs."

However, the initial results demonstrated that the genetic scraps are resistant to digestion, so they can be used as the basis of a test. "This maybe the reason for that miRNAs are stably expressed in serum and plasma," co-authors Ke Zen and Junfeng Zhang explain.

The study will also help to identify the patients who are responding to novel cancer treatments, which should change the genetic fingerprint. "After our discovery is published, big pharmaceutical companies will come to us asking for help," Dr Zhang added.

Many drugs still fail at a late stage, so called phase III trial, so "this new technique can greatly facilitate the process of identifying the subgroup of the population that is effectively responding to the drug."

The team collaborated with Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital; Beijing Genomics Institute and Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Beijing Genomics Institute; and Ruijin Hospital, affiliated to The Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

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(Telegraph.co.uk, "Blood Test Could Provide Lung Cancer Early Warning," by Roger Highfield, Science Editor, September 2, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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