Here's an interesting presentation on a new method and approach looking at the early detection of lung cancer, sent to me by Mary Canady of Comprendia:
Essentially, the test samples deep lung sputum and appears to label it more accurately than currently available methods. You can see the difference between normal cells and lung cancer cells in slide 14.
The CyPath test is currently being evaluated in the field in New Mexico via a pilot lung cancer screening study in 225 military veterans to detect early lung cancer, with completion in November this year. A second, larger study will commence in January 2010, in 3,500 patients with an estimated completion of March 2011. FDA approval will therefore likely be around 1Q12 based on the current timelines.
If the results from these trials are positive, then it is possible that the CyPath may eventually become a new annual screening test for lung cancer in the same way we currently have PAP smears for cervival cancer and PSA for prostate cancer. Lung cancer is much more prevalent, especially amongst smokers, and is the single biggest cancer killer in the developed world. Detecting it in earlier stages rather than in the metastatic phase would likely lead to improved survival from the disease in the long run.
Image via Wikipedia
Of course, it's early days yet and time will tell whether the test is sensitive enough or not.
It isn't clear whether it will detect small cell from non-small cell lung cancer or even mesotheliomas or whether they all get lumped together as one amorphous 'lung cancer' group,
It's an approach that's well worth experimenting with given the time taken to develop a major tumour and the link with cigarette smoking.