Study finds biomarker for lung cancer detection in the nasal passages of smokers

February 27, 2017, Boston University Medical Center
Lung CA seen on CXR. Credit: James Heilman, MD/Wikipedia

A new nasal test may allow patients suspected of having lung cancer to undergo a simple swab of their nose to determine if they have the disease.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that a genomic biomarker in the can accurately determine the likelihood of a lung lesion being malignant.

The findings, which appear online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, will allow physicians to confidently identify patients who are at low probability for having lung cancer, thus sparing them from costly and risky procedures.

The diagnostic evaluation of lung cancer among high-risk current and former smokers with lesions found on chest imaging (computed tomography or CT) represents a growing clinical challenge given the current clinical recommendations for routine CT screening of high-risk smokers. While there are guidelines for the management of pulmonary nodules, unnecessary, invasive follow-up procedures (including ) are frequently performed on patients who are ultimately diagnosed with benign disease.

"Our group previously derived and validated a bronchial epithelial biomarker to detect lung cancer in current and former smokers. This innovation, available since 2015 as the Percepta Bronchial Genomic Classifier, is measurably improving lung cancer diagnosis," said corresponding author Avrum Spira, MD, MSc, professor of medicine, pathology and bioinformatics at BUSM. "Given that bronchial and nasal epithelial gene expressions are similarly altered by cigarette smoke exposure, we sought to determine in this study if cancer-associated gene expression might also be detectable in the more readily accessible ."

After examining nasal epithelial brushings from current and former smokers undergoing diagnostic evaluation for pulmonary lesions suspicious for lung cancer, the researchers determined that the nasal airway epithelial field of lung cancer-associated injury in smokers extends to the nose and has the potential of being a non-invasive biomarker for lung cancer detection.

"There is a clear and growing need to develop additional diagnostic approaches for evaluating pulmonary lesions to determine which patients should undergo CT surveillance or invasive biopsy. The ability to test for molecular changes in this 'field of injury' allows us to rule out the disease earlier without invasive procedures," added Spira, who is also director of the BU-BMC Cancer Center and a pulmonologist at Boston Medical Center (BMC).

"Our findings clearly demonstrate the existence of a cancer-associated airway field of injury that also can be measured in nasal epithelium," added Marc Lenburg, PhD, professor of medicine at BUSM and co-senior author. "We find that nasal gene expression contains information about the presence of cancer that is independent of standard clinical risk factors, suggesting that nasal epithelial gene expression might aid in detection. Moreover, the nasal samples can be collected non-invasively with little instrumentation or advanced training."

Explore further: Study validates effectiveness of genomic test for lung cancer detection

Related Stories

Study validates effectiveness of genomic test for lung cancer detection

May 18, 2015
A new test co-developed by a Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researcher will allow patients suspected of having lung cancer to be subjected to fewer and less-invasive tests to determine if they have the disease.

Gene expression changes in nasal cells may help identify lung cancer in earliest stages

May 15, 2011
A simple, minimally-invasive technique using cells from the interior of the nose could help clinicians detect lung cancer in its earliest – and most treatable – stages, according to a study conducted by researchers ...

Researchers identify molecule that could aid lung cancer detection, treatment

October 25, 2013
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered a molecule that could help lead to the non-invasive detection of lung cancer as well as its treatment. Using RNA sequencing, the team looked at airway ...

Recommended for you

Scientists sharpen the edges of cancer chemotherapy with CRISPR

July 13, 2018
Tackling unsolved problems is a cornerstone of scientific research, propelled by the power and promise of new technologies. Indeed, one of the shiniest tools in the biomedical toolkit these days is the genome editing system ...

Looking at the urine and blood may be best in diagnosing myeloma

July 13, 2018
When it comes to diagnosing a condition in which the plasma cells that normally make antibodies to protect us instead become cancerous, it may be better to look at the urine as well as the serum of our blood for answers, ...

Massive genome havoc in breast cancer is revealed

July 12, 2018
In cancer cells, genetic errors wreak havoc. Misspelled genes, as well as structural variations—larger-scale rearrangements of DNA that can encompass large chunks of chromosomes—disturb carefully balanced mechanisms that ...

Study shows biomarker panel boosts lung cancer risk assessment for smokers

July 12, 2018
A four-protein biomarker blood test improves lung cancer risk assessment over existing guidelines that rely solely upon smoking history, capturing risk for people who have ever smoked, not only for heavy smokers, an international ...

Discovering the mechanisms that underlie prostate cancer

July 12, 2018
New research has uncovered insights into the mechanisms that underlie prostate cancer, providing potential targets for new cancer therapies.

New method reveals how well cancer drugs hit their targets

July 12, 2018
Scientists have developed a technique that allows them to measure how well cancer drugs reach their targets inside the body. It shows individual cancer cells in a tumour in real time, revealing which cells interact with the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.