Nysha Recent News

Two New Medical Developments Might Streamline Lung-cancer Diagnoses, Save Lives

March 21, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Nasal Swab DNA Tests, ‘Liquid Biopsies’ Snagging Headlines Recently

Because it is frequently caught too late, lung cancer remains by far the disease’s deadliest form.  And making that diagnosis worse is the fact that just diagnosing it is fraught with uncomfortable, costly and even risky procedures.

Lung cancer is currently diagnosed in a few steps.

First, CT scans of the chest find suspicious and unidentified growths inside the lungs that are larger than about five millimeters.  An invasive procedure called a lung biopsy is then usually done.  A traditional lung biopsy involves inserting a specialized needle into the lung to remove a sample of the suspect nodule or tissue.  The sample is then tested for cancer in a laboratory.

But lung biopsies can cause serious complications, including collapsed lungs, infections or worse.

That’s why medicine has long sought other ways of reliably—and non-invasively—confirming lung cancer.

In a study published Feb. 27 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, analysis of DNA collected from simple nasal swabs may someday help doctors confirm cases of lung cancer and avoid costlier and more invasive existing procedures, according to Boston University researcher Dr. Avrum Spira and colleagues.

In the nasal swab samples, collected from current or former smokers at 28 medical centers in North America and Europe, Dr. Spira’s study found a pattern of 30 genes that were active in a different way in people confirmed to have lung cancer than in those who were not.

In related news, biotechnology firm OncoCyte announced on March 6 that its tests have confirmed the effectiveness of its new “liquid biopsy” lung cancer blood test.

According to OncoCyte, a 300-patient validation study of its blood test for early detection of lung cancer has confirmed the accuracy reported from a prior trial.

The company’s previously-reported study of over 600 patients found the OncoCyte test had a sensitivity of 90 percent and specificity of 62 percent—meaning that it accurately detected cancer 90 percent of the time while demonstrating an ability to identify false positives 62 percent of the time.

The firm said it was preparing for a commercial launch of the test as early as the second half of this year and expects it will be the first product of its kind for lung cancer to reach the market.

So-called liquid biopsies use blood or other body fluids to determine the presence of cancer and may help spare patients from invasive biopsies that are risky, expensive and often turn out to be unnecessary, as they commonly find samples to be benign.

OncoCyte said it would price its test at about 20 percent to 25 percent of the cost of a standard of care lung biopsy, which can run about $15,000.  That would put the OncoCyte test at around $3,000 to $3,750.

According to OncoCyte, about 1.4 million U.S. patients a year are found to have lung nodules 5mm or larger, making for a sizable market for alternative diagnostics.