Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) identified a novel method to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages from a blood test. Rather than screening for factors released by the incipient tumor into the blood stream, the test looks at gene expression in the subject’s circulating white blood cells (WBCs).
“We found that the types of genes present in these cells could tell us whether or not cancer was present,” says Anil Vachani, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at UPenn.
To test the accuracy and validity of the method, the researchers recruited 44 patients with early-stage lung cancer and 52 control subjects who were matched for age, smoking status, gender, and race. They then used a number of genetic arrays to determine the best targets for detecting the presence of cancer.
They found that a 15-gene array had the highest accuracy, at 87%. “These findings suggest that lung cancers interact with circulating white blood cells and change the types of genes that are active in these cells,” reports Dr. Vachani.
The results will be presented at American Thoracic Society’s 2008 International Conference on May 20.