ATS 2011, DENVER A simple, minimally-invasive technique using cells from the interior of the nose could help clinicians detect lung cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages, according to a study conducted by researchers in Boston.
The study will be presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference.
"Our data suggests that evaluating gene expression changes in nasal cells found in the interior surface of the nose may serve as a non-invasive approach for the early detection of lung cancer in smokers," said study author Christina Anderlind, MD, Instructor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortality, with an average five-year survival rate of only 15 percent. However, survival rates are highly dependent upon how advanced the cancer is when detected.
"At an early stage, the five-year survival rate is 60 percent compared to only 2 percent at a late stage," Dr. Anderlind noted. "Despite this fact, early diagnosis is hard to achieve since the diagnostic tests currently available are highly invasive, such as open lung biopsy. We wanted to determine if a minimally invasive site like the nose could be used to diagnose cancer in its early stages, when there is a much greater chance of long-term survival."
For their study, the researchers collected nasal epithelial cells from thirty three smokers who were undergoing medically-indicated bronchoscopies for suspicion of lung cancer. Of these patients, eleven were found to have benign disease and twenty two had lung cancer. Brushings were taken from the right or left nostril and profiled on microarrays, a process that allows researchers to study gene expression changes.
"Microarrays allow us to get a detailed portrait of the expression levels of a large number of genes simultaneously, with our goal being to then sort through all these expression levels to find genes that differ in their expression between
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American Thoracic Society