Scientists at The Wistar Institute in the US have found a protein in the blood that appears to be more accurate at detecting lung cancer than currently available methods used for screening.
If the accuracy of this biomarker can be confirmed in a larger trial, this could lead to the development of a simple blood test that could be used for annual screening, the researchers said.
"If we can develop a simple blood test that's more accurate than low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans, we can detect the cancer earlier with a less expensive, less invasive and more accurate blood test. Everyone stands to gain from such a test becoming available," said lead author of the study Qihong Huang, associate professor at The Wistar Institute.
In this study, Huang and his colleagues focused on cancer testis antigens (CTAs), since they are often found in tumor cells that circulate in the blood.
After analyzing 116 different CTAs, the researchers identified the protein AKAP4 as a potential biomarker that could effectively distinguish between patients with and without non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The researchers then tested AKAP4 as a biomarker in a pilot cohort that contained 264 blood samples from patients with NSCLC and 135 control samples.
"The results of this study exceeded our expectations," Huang said.
"AKAP4 appears to be a highly effective biomarker for the detection of non-small cell lung cancer. If we are able to confirm these results in a more robust study, then we have the potential for a new, more accurate screening method that could help save many, many lives," Huang said.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women worldwide.
With the positive results of this study, Huang said that Wistar will conduct a larger study with the goal of analyzing at least 800 samples.
The findings were published online in the journal Oncotarget.