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Tests Might Someday Help Spot Early Lung Cancer
Date:1/11/2012

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the world, and only about 15 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage, when it's most treatable.

But two preliminary studies that are scheduled to be presented at a medical meeting this week suggest that scientists are moving closer to developing new screening tests that could potentially detect lung cancer in its earliest stages.

In one report, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City evaluated tissue samples from healthy smokers and were able to identify precancerous changes in the cells lining the airways leading to the lungs.

"We found that the earliest molecular changes related to lung cancer are present in the airway epithelium of healthy smokers who do not have any detectable microscopic abnormalities in the lung tissue," said study author Dr. Renat Shaykhiev, an assistant professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell.

Shaykhiev added that the findings "may lead to the development of novel strategies to prevent lung cancer development at the very early stages, before the development of clinically detectable cancer."

In the second study, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston developed a blood test that can analyze and determine the exact genetic mutations of circulating tumor cells in a sample size as small as three cells.

"We have developed an extremely sensitive test that could be able to detect mutations present in circulating tumor cells, and we are hoping that from their characterization we would be able to understand diagnostic, prognostic and predictive markers," researcher Heidi Erickson, an assistant professor of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology at MD Anderson, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

"By being able to collect a blood sample from a patient in
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