Cheeks may hold the clue to lung cancer risk

According to Canadian researchers DNA changes in cells taken from the inside of the cheek are associated with a risk for stage I lung cancer.

Dr. Bojana Turic and her colleagues at Perceptronix, in Vancouver, say that her team's focus has been on detecting stage I lung cancer because that stage is considered treatable.

As a rule most lung cancers are detected at later stages.

The Canadian team collected cheek cell specimens from 354 high-risk patients and 203 patients with confirmed lung cancer, 62 of which were stage I.

Turic reports that an automated analysis then identified DNA changes that are linked to lung cancer risk.

The test detected 72 percent of lung cancer cases, although it also produced a similar number of false-positive results.

Turic says an integrated approach is necessary at present to detect lung cancer in its early stage, as no single test will as yet solve the screening problem.

The team believe that a combination of two or more tests will provide a better patient management approach.

They suggest for example, that a positive CT scan and a positive automated cell analysis test may identify higher risk patients.

These patients should then be monitored more closely.

The team has already developed a sputum test for lung cancer using their analysis method and are hoping for Canadian regulatory approval in early 2006.

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