Phlegm test for lung cancer

The University of Maryland School of Medicine has essentially come up with a spit test for lung cancer:

In the January 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, the researchers report that their fledgling test, designed to check whether two genes believed to be tumor suppressors are deleted in cells found in sputum, identified 76 percent of stage I lung cancer patients whose tumors also showed the same genetic loss. Existing sputum “cytology” tests, which look for changes in cell structure, identified only 47 percent of the patients, they say.

While no other simple sputum analysis has found such a high correlation with lung cancer, it is not yet good enough for the clinic, researchers say, and so they are now expanding their test to screen for up to eight genes.

This is pretty cool, and while it may not be good enough for the clinic, it does appear to have greater potential than say, the controversial PSA test for prostate cancer which misses 82% of tumors in men younger than 60, and 65% of cancers in men over 60. While you can’t yet make a direct comparison between the two, this spit test does seem like it will end up being more accurate than the PSA test.

The researchers are hoping to drill down to the genes that are specific only to cancer. Current cytology tests show the extend of cell damage, but this doesn’t correlate to lung cancer rates because most heavy smokers do not develop cancer. Looking for only the genes involved is a more precise approach to calculating lung cancer risk.

[tags]Medicine, cancer, lung cancer, oncology, genetics[/tags]

2 thoughts on “Phlegm test for lung cancer

  1. Good Grief! Is this a mis-statement? In this article, the last paragraph says, “Current cytology tests show the extent of cell damage, but this doesn’t correlate to lung cancer rates because MOST HEAVY SMOKERS DO NOT DEVELOP CANCER.”

  2. No, that’s not a mistake. Statistically-speaking, most heavy smokers do not develop cancer. But that doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there.

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