Lung Cancer Warning Test Developed by TCD Medical Clinician

Posted on: 25 April 2007

A new lung cancer test which gives exceptionally early warning of the disease has been jointly developed by scientists and medical clinicians from Trinity College and Boston University Medical Centre. The research was recently published in the world-leading prestigious journal, Nature Medicine.
Initial trials on about 200 patients showed the test to be between 83 and 95 per cent accurate for identifying patients with early-stage lung cancer, stated the head of the Irish group, TCD senior lecturer in clinical medicine,  Dr  Joseph Keane and consultant respiratory physician at St James’s  Hospital.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the world, with 80 to 85 per cent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis, Dr Keane said. “An estimated 1,500 die here each year from the disease. In Ireland, there is an epidemic among young women,” he added.
Dr Keane worked with Boston University’s  Dr Avrum Spira on an emerging technology based on the use of DNA chips. These chips can measure gene activity in cells, indicating in a sample whether genes are switched on or switched off. Using tissue samples provided by Dublin, the Boston group identified a biomarker involving the activity of 80 genes. About half of the genes become more active and half less active if a person is at risk of lung cancer.
The research team found its biomarker was highly accurate for confirming an existing lung cancer diagnosis and it now wants to run a much larger trial to confirm the test can also reliably predict whether a person will actually contract the disease.
“We haven’t shown that if you have these gene changes you will progress to lung cancer, but if we do show that, then we have a remarkable tool for the very early diagnosis of lung cancer,” said Dr Keane. Early diagnosis is considered imperative if a patient is to have the best chance of survival, he said.
Two weeks ago the New England Journal of Medicine ran reports suggesting CT scanning could help reduce lung cancer mortality. Dr Keane, who is also attached to Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, was the first person to be supported by the Health Research Board’s clinician scientist programme.