ASCO 2008: Blood assay may detect early lung cancer

June 1, 2008

An RNA signature present in blood that is highly accurate for detecting prevalent lung cancer can accurately predict the development of lung cancer within the next 2 years 80% of the time, said Thomas Zander, MD, Department of Internal Medicine and the Center for Integrated Oncology, University Clinic Cologne, Germany. "Early detection of lung cancer is a major need, as most patients present for diagnosis at a late stage when there is no chance for cure," Dr Zander said. Two-year survival after a lung cancer diagnosis is approximately 15%. Early detection may therefore be a promising strategy to improve survival rates.

An RNA signature present in blood that is highly accurate for detecting prevalent lung cancer can accurately predict the development of lung cancer within the next 2 years 80% of the time, said Thomas Zander, MD, Department of Internal Medicine and the Center for Integrated Oncology, University Clinic Cologne, Germany. "Early detection of lung cancer is a major need, as most patients present for diagnosis at a late stage when there is no chance for cure," Dr Zander said. Two-year survival after a lung cancer diagnosis is approximately 15%. Early detection may therefore be a promising strategy to improve survival rates.

Dr Zander and colleagues generated a lung cancer-associated RNA fingerprint in peripheral blood samples from 13 smokers with prevalent lung cancer and validated it in a second group of 22 patients with lung cancer. Once the RNA signature clearly differentiated patients with already prevalent lung cancer versus healthy control participants, researchers aimed to determine if the signature could predict which patients would develop lung cancer within 2 years.

Using a cohort of 25,000 healthy individuals recruited into the European Prospective Investigation on Cancer and Nutrition, the investigators identified all smokers who developed lung cancer within 2 years after study inclusion and matched them with control study patients who did not. Snap frozen blood samples from both types of patients were tested for the RNA signature.

Assays for the RNA signature were able to predict which patients went on to develop lung cancer within 2 years with 80% accuracy, 75% sensitivity, and 85% specificity, Dr Zander said. "This RNA signature is already proven and I am convinced that these data warrant other, prospective studies," he said. "This may form the basis for the further development of a blood-based lung cancer early detection test."

Dr Zander added that the RNA signature developed for early lung cancer detection involves genes within the immune response system that are enhanced.