Researchers Developing Life-Saving Blood Test to Detect Lung Cancer

Scientists may be close to discovering developing a blood test to identify lung cancer in its early stages, which would save thousands of lives each year.

Professor Jachim Shultze, M.D., and his team have identified over 480 molecules in the blood which show specific patterns of change when a person develops lung cancer.  The molecules are nucleic acids that form in the body due to certain genes.

The changes in the blood occurs even when the tumor is still in a very early stage.  There are four different stages of lung cancer, and the later stages – stages 3 and 4 – have an extremely high mortality rate.

“The prognosis for patients in stage 3 and 4 is still very poor even today; even with the most modern therapies, the point of death can only be postponed,” said Dr. Shultze in a press release.

While lung cancer in stage 1 can be treated surgically and even be cured in many cases, only about 15 percent of cases are caught that early.  Because the cancer typically goes undetected for so long, over 80 percent of all lung cancer patients die within two years of diagnosis.

The researchers hope their blood tests may someday become part of routine practice.  The method is simple: The doctor takes a blood sample from the patient and within 24 hours knows with a high degress of certainty whether the patient has lung cancer or not, even if no symptoms are present.

Dr. Shultze and his team developed the test by investigating the blood of over 200 smokers.  Half had lung cancer, and the rest were either entirely healthy or had another lung disease.

“It was important to us that a subsequent test not only be able to differentiate lung cancer patients from healthy subjects, but also from persons with chronic lung diseases,” said Shultze.

The researchers then examined the patients’ blood samples for certain nucleic acids and in doing so, a pattern emerged.

The researchers are now planning a much larger study with ten times as many patients, in order to confirm the results.  If the study is successful, a blood test for lung cancer may soon hit the market.