Wistar Institute researchers and collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania and New York University have identified immune system markers in the blood which indicate early-stage lung tumors in people at high risk for developing lung cancer. The findings, published online December 1 in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, could lead to a simple blood test to detect lung cancer in its earliest phases, when it can be most successfully treated.
Wistar investigators Louise C. Showe, Ph.D., and Michael K. Showe Ph.D., and colleagues examined gene expression profiles in blood samples from more than 200 patients with lung cancer or other, non-malignant, lung diseases. Focusing on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and the large at-risk population of smokers and ex-smokers, the researchers sought to determine whether lung tumors—even at the earliest stages—leave a gene expression signature in circulating blood cells. Recent studies have shown that in some late-stage cancers, an immune system response can be detected in the blood which can contain information on responsiveness to therapy or identify markers associated with prognosis.