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Simple Test May Spot Early Lung Cancer
Date:4/7/2010

And over-the-counter drug might reverse genetic process that leads to disease, study finds

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers may have found an easy way to detect lung cancer in its early or even pre-cancerous stages, as well as a way to reverse the start of the deadly disease with a readily available, over-the-counter drug.

"It's incredibly, incredibly exciting," said Dr. Patrick Nana-Sinkam, a lung cancer expert with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved with the new study. "This definitely has potential."

The minimally invasive procedure involves using a small brush to collect a smattering of cells from the windpipe (a bronchoscopy), explained study co-author Andrea Bild, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Maybe one day, screening could be done using an even simpler nasal or sputum test, the researchers said.

Currently, there is no good way to detect lung cancer -- the number one cancer killer -- in its early stages when it's most treatable. By the time most lung cancers are diagnosed -- which usually involves an invasive examination of the lungs -- patients already have advanced malignancies. Only 15 percent of patients are still alive at five years, said Nana-Sinkam.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for 90 percent of all lung cancer cases in the United States.

Still, only 10 to 20 percent of smokers actually develop lung cancer, begging the question: Why do some smokers succumb to the disease and others don't.

Now genomics may have provided an answer.

Working on the theory that cigarettes harm not only the lungs but a "field of injury" extending to other areas of the respiratory tract, the study authors surmised that evidence of existing or soon-to-develop lung cancer might be available further up in the airway.

The researchers use
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