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Test Spots Genetic Damage Done by Smoking
Date:9/5/2007

It could lead to earlier detection, treatment of lung cancer, study says

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental lung cancer screening test designed to look for precancerous genetic damage could help better identify patients at risk for the disease, while opening up the possibility for earlier diagnoses and preventive treatments, a new study suggests.

The procedure enabled the researchers to screen people for evidence of chromosomal abnormalities in the lungs that are found among virtually all lung cancer patients. More than 80 percent of patients who did not yet have lung cancer -- but whose smoking placed them at high-risk -- were found to have such disease biomarkers.

"We were able to see precancerous genetic changes in the bronchial cells lining the airways of the lungs in both high-risk smokers and in patients who have lung cancer in another part of the lung," said lead author Dr. Wilbur A. Franklin, a professor of pathology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Reporting in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the authors cautioned that they are not yet certain that the genetic changes they identified will always lead to lung cancer. However, they said the prospect of such an association was fuel for further research.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the United States, causing more fatalities than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined, the researchers noted.

They added that genetic markers for lung cancer risk are good targets for screening interventions, given that once chromosomal abnormalities occur, they are considered irreversible -- even among smokers who kick the habit.

Franklin and his team used two laboratory techniques -- spectral karyotyping (SKY) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) -- to check the chromosomal status of lung tissue among 71 people. Fourtee
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