Earlier a tumor is detected, greater are the chances of healing the patients. But the main problem lies in the early diagnosis of many forms of cancer. In its initial stages, the tumour-related complaints resemble chronic inflammatory reactions. Researchers are working on the protein biomarkers that help in detecting lung cancer at an early stage.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI and the University Clinic want to produce a first prototype that can then be further developed into a diagnostic tool that can be used in practice.
"Since 2006, working with the working groups of Professor Hubert Wirtz and Professor Ulrich Sack of the University Clinic, we first identified various biomarkers that are particularly well-suited for the identification of lung-cancer cells," said Jorg Lehmann, head of the Cell Engineering/GLP Unit at IZI.
"The main difficulty lies in finding a reliable way to distinguish cancer from chronic inflammatory disease," he added.
To accomplish this, the patient must breathe into a piece of equipment for roughly 20 minutes. The exhaled breath condensate is then evaporated.
Biomarkers are detected by means of special antibodies that recognize substances such as the protein VEGF.
This protein is responsible for stimulating the growth of new blood vessels.
This laboratory method is still too 'elaborate and expensive' for normal everyday use, said Lehmann.
In their new testing platform, the researchers have actually applied two new developments: in addition to the method enlisting protein biomarkers to identify cancer cells, they also make use of the antibody specially developed for this procedure.
This way, within just a few years, every physician investigating a suspicion of lung cancer can use the diagnostic platform right in his or her practice to test whether there really is a tumor and quickly initiate treatment.