Simple blood test could show lung cancer 5 YEARS before the disease even appears on medical scans
- Antibodies are produced by the immune system during the early stages
- The best hope for successful lung cancer treatment is to detect it early
- But screening patients at high-risk for antibodies could save many lives
A simple blood test could allow doctors to spot signs of lung cancer five years before the disease even shows on medical scans.
Antibodies are produced by the immune system during the early stages of lung cancer, a study found.
Screening patients at high-risk for the antibodies could potentially save many lives, experts believe.
Researchers from the University of Dundee recruited 12,000 adults aged between 50 and 75 who were considered at high risk of lung cancer.
They all had either smoked heavily for 20 years or more or had a history of the disease in their family.
Half were given the antibody blood test while the rest received standard forms of diagnosis and care.
Of around 6,000 patients screened, around one in 10 tested positive for the antibodies.
From this group, 207 were found to have lung nodules – lumps of tissue in the organ that may be cancerous or benign.
So far, chest X-rays and computed tomography have confirmed 16 cases of lung cancer – three quarters at an early stage.
Dr Stuart Schembri, who co-led the research, said: ‘Lung cancer is a serious and life-threatening illness and our best hope for successful treatment is to detect it as early as possible.
‘Heavy smokers are particularly at risk, but it is just not possible to scan everyone who is considered high risk.
‘And within those who are scanned, a CT scan alone can falsely suggest lung cancer or pick up incidental, non-clinically relevant findings, causing unnecessary worry and expense.
‘We therefore need to find a way to identify which of the people at high-risk need a scan and a way to detect lung cancer before patients present with symptoms.
‘This test allows us to scan from a much more informed position and removes the stress around many patients unnecessarily having to go through a CT scan.
‘But most importantly, we feel it may help us to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages when we have an improved chance of successful treatment.’
The scientists are now monitoring the progress of the study participants over two years to see if the test can reduce the incidence of late-stage lung cancer.
Each year, more than 46,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK and in excess of 35,500 die from the disease – Britain’s biggest cancer killer.