Test had a 51% sensitivity and an 18% specificity, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

A group of investigators from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report that they have validated an early screening test for lung cancer. The biomarker panel consisted of three molecules linked to early-stage, presymptomatic disease: two previously identified antigens, known as annexin1 and 14-3-3 theta, as well as a newly identified lung-cancer antigen called LAMR1.

The initial goal is to use such a blood test in conjunction with imaging techniques , to improve the early detection of lung cancer in those at high risk. Such a test could be in clinical use within five years, according to Samir M. Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., head of the molecular diagnostic program in the public health sciences division.

The researchers conducted a blinded analysis of blood samples from 85 current or former smokers collected within a year of lung-cancer diagnosis and blood samples from 85 current or former smokers who did not go on to develop lung cancer.

The combined sensitivity of the three-biomarker panel was 51%, meaning that autoantibodies to these antigens were present in the blood of 51% of people who later developed lung cancer. The false-positive rate of the biomarker panel was 18%, meaning that about one-fifth of the comparison group tested positive for the autoantibodies even though they did not develop the disease.

“If we can enlarge this panel by adding a few more, we could develop a blood test with sufficient sensitivity and specificity for detecting lung cancer much earlier than current screening methods allow,” says Dr. Hanash. Along with colleagues, he next hopes to further validate this biomarker panel by securing funding for a retrospective multicenter study of patients who undergo lung CT scanning.

Results from the current study appear online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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