Friday, September 21, 2007

Blood tests for early lung cancer detection

In searching for possible harm-minimisation policies with respect to the lung cancer consequences of smoking I recently posted on the possibility of using CAT scans as an earlier way of detecting tumours. The difficulty of such testing is the problem of too many false positives and the possibility that malignant tumours are likely to develop between such tests even if carried out regularly.

Steven W sent me this interesting link on testing blood for lung cancer. The report is based, in turn, on a report provided by the American Association for Cancer Research on work done by Panacea Pharmaceuticals. It is based on detecting a protein in blood (HAAA) that is linked to lung cancer but which seldom shows up in the blood of people without the disease. Presence of HAAA does not prove the existence of lung cancer but it does suggest a case for further diagnostic procedures.
"A positive test for this protein marker, followed by CT scanning, may help identify individuals with lung cancer at a stage in which treatment is more effective, possibly even curative," said research scientist Mark Semenuk, who is presenting results of a study testing the specificity and sensitivity of the blood test".
Lest someone foolishly suggest that I am proposing that people continue smoking but take such tests to guard against cancer risks I should affirm that I am not. The best way to improve the health of your lungs is to stop smoking and smoking causes many healthy problems other than lung cancer. But for people unable to quit – there are lots of them - and for ex smokers - there are lots of them too - this research is interesting.

Hat tip to Stephen W.

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