Lung cancer claims more lives in the United States each
year than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined due to the fact that it often
goes undetected until the disease has reached an advanced and more
Currently, biopsies are the only sure way to detect lung
cancer, and they are highly involved and invasive for patients. That's why Dr
Yendamuri is trying to develop a blood test to help diagnose the cancer in
patients before they undergo a biopsy. His work is supported by a $100,000
OneBreath Clinical Research Award in Lung Cancer from The CHEST Foundation.
He says that like mammography for breast cancer and
colonoscopy for colon cancer — which can spot very early cancers and even
pre-cancerous conditions — CT scans can be used to identify lung nodules, some
of which do prove to be lung cancer. "However, only one of 10 nodules identified
on CT scans eventually prove to be lung cancer," explains Dr. Yendamuri. "And
while biopsies are the sure way to detect a cancer, procedures are much more
involved when it comes to lung masses than they are for breast and colon
Dr. Yendamuri, Attending Surgeon in RPCI's Department of
Thoracic Surgery, says that his team will first find blood-based biomarkers for
the disease. "Specifically, we will look at microRNAs, small molecules which
regulate other molecules, thereby influencing normal physiology as well
MicroRNAs are emerging as promising biomarkers for human
health as well as disease states. Preliminary work by Dr. Yendamuri yielded
data that suggest microRNA profiling of whole blood can distinguish — with high
accuracy — people with lung cancer from people without lung cancer. This
current project aims to expand that preliminary work to determine which
microRNAs or signatures of microRNAs are the best predictors of disease state.
"At that point we will create a whole blood microRNA assay
for lung cancer," he says. "We will then validate our findings by checking for
these biomarkers in blood samples of lung cancer patients both before and after
resection surgery, to understand whether these signatures represent cancer
presence versus cancer susceptibility."
If successful, such a test will potentially help with
early diagnosis of lung cancer, and improve cure rates for the disease.