Researchers have identified a pattern in microRNA that can help doctors diagnose lung cancer up to two years before it can be detected by CT scans. The researchers, with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, and Richard J. Solove Research Institute say that in the future, doctors may be able to diagnose lung cancer and even mesothelioma through a blood test.
Early detection of lung cancer and mesothelioma can dramatically affect patients’ survival rates by increasing treatment options which can improve the patients’ quality of life as well as their prognosis. Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. In many cases of lung cancer or mesothelioma, a diagnosis is not reached until the disease is at an advanced stage, limiting treatment options and posing a poor prognosis.
Principal investigator Dr. Carlo M. Croce states, “These abnormal microRNAs were present in blood serum well before the tumors were detected by a sensitive method such as spiral CT scan, suggesting they might have strong predictive, diagnostic, and prognostic potential.”
The researchers targeted pack-a-day smokers over the age of 50 who had smoked for more than 20 years. They identified “patterns of microRNAs that distinguished tumors with faster growth rates and that correlated with poor disease-free survival.”
The biomarker discovered by researchers also reflects the aggressiveness of mesothelioma, so it will be used as a prognostic and diagnostic tool. The findings of this study were recently reported in an issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.