A new test will allow patients suspected of lung cancer to be subjected to fewer and less-invasive tests to determine if they have the disease or not.
A genomic biomarker can accurately determine the likelihood of a lung lesion being malignant. The findings are from two large, prospective, multicenter studies called Airway Epithelium Gene Expression in the Diagnosis of Lung Cancer (AEGIS) I and II.
"In the past, these patients have been subjected to invasive tests when traditional bronchoscopy tests prove inconclusive. Today's announcement provides physicians and patients with an additional piece of scientifically reliable information to consider when determining their next diagnostic step," said senior author Avi Spira, professor at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
The findings will allow physicians to confidently identify patients, who are at low probability for having lung cancer thus sparing them from costly and risky procedures.
"The ability to test for molecular changes in this 'field of injury' allows us to rule out the disease earlier without invasive procedures. Conceptually, this may have significant implications for other diseases," Spira stressed.
The study involved 639 patients (298 in AEGIS I and 341 in AEGIS II) who were undergoing bronchoscopy, a common non-surgical procedure to assess lung lesions for cancer.
"The combination of the biomarker and bronchoscopy has a sensitivity of 96% and 98% in the AEGIS-1 and AEGIS-2 groups, respectively," Spira noted.
This can lead to invasive procedures such as transthoracic needle biopsy or surgical lung biopsy that are risky and expensive.
"We hope to improve the diagnostic work up for lung cancer by reducing patient anxiety, performing fewer unnecessary procedures and ultimately saving valuable healthcare resources and money," Spira concluded.
The study appeared online in New England Journal of Medicine