Study finds genetic aberrations linked to lung cancer; Could help in early diagnosis


"The over-expression and under-expression of certain genes in lung cells may directly contribute to the initiation or progression of lung cancer," You said. "Alternately, the abnormal expression of these genes may be secondary effects of the tumor development process."

The next step in You's research will be to find out which of the 26 genes identified in this study start behaving abnormally at a relatively early stage in the onset of lung cancer.

"In order to find diagnostic markers for the disease, we need to identify genes that show aberrant behavior before it is too late for treatment," You said.

Successful treatment of lung cancer hinges on early diagnosis - more so than in other cancers - because the continuous flow of blood through the lungs makes the disease very easy to spread inside the body. Most diagnostic methods of today don't do a very good job of spotting lung tumors at a treatable stage, You said.

"We estimate that about 20 percent of the genes identified in our study show signs of alteration at a very early stage of tumor development," You said. To spot these early changes, the researchers plan to analyze lung tissue samples from patients who have been diagnosed at an early stage of their illness - through positron emission tomography (PET) or other imaging techniques.

Equipped with a profile of genetic aberrations that are linked to early tumor growth, it would be possible to distinguish potentially dangerous nodules in a patient's lung from the benign ones. "If you know which lesions are likely to become cancerous, you could start treating them right away," You said. "That would give you enough lead time to halt the progression of the illness."


Contact: Ming You
Ohio State University

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