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Diagnostic Blood Test Could Screen For Lung Cancer, Even At Earliest Stage

Biopharmaceutical researchers have found a protein in blood they say is linked to all stages of lung cancer but which rarely shows up in the blood of people without the disease. Testing for this protein might help physicians decide whether smokers or others at high risk for lung cancer should be referred for lung imaging, say investigators, who presented their findings in Atlanta, Georgia at the American Association for Cancer Research's second International Conference on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development.

A diagnostic blood test to screen high-risk individuals for lung cancer could be both practical to use and cost-effective, say investigators from Panacea Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of Gaithersburg, Md.

"A positive test for this protein marker, followed by CT scanning, may help identify individuals with lung cancer at a stage in which treatment is more effective, possibly even curative," said research scientist Mark Semenuk, who is presenting results of a study testing the specificity and sensitivity of the blood test.

Currently, there are no approved blood tests available to help detect lung cancer, which is expected to be diagnosed in 213,000 people in the U.S. this year, and will be responsible for more than 160,000 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Typically, CT scanning or chest x-rays are performed on people who have developed symptoms of lung cancer, but by the time a patient is symptomatic the disease is often well advanced. These two methods are not often used in early screening for potential lung cancer given such issues as price and whether radiological methods are appropriate for routine screening on a large scale."

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