Researchers at The Valley Hospital recently announced that they are working on paving the way for a much easier, accurate and less invasive method to screen for the most frequent type of lung cancer. Lung cancer is a leading cancer killer in men and responsible for the most cancer deaths in the United States
A. P. Ganepola is the medical director of research for Valley’s Okonite Research Center and the Valley’s Center for Cancer Research and Genomic Medicine; Robert J. Korst, is the medical director of Valley’s Blumenthal Cancer Center; and David H. Chang is a researcher at the Center for Cancer Research and Genomic Medicine in Paramus, NJ. They have partnered with the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia on the study, led by Qihong Huang, professor on the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program. The results were published in the Oncotarget journal.
The team found that detecting a protein found in the blood appears to be more precise than using low-dose CT scans, the current method used for detecting non-small cell lung cancer. This project complements the recent discovery of a biomarker for pancreatic cancer, which was begun six years ago at Valley. “Our research on pancreatic cancer made a significant contribution to medical research and with Wistar’s support, we used the exact same approach for the lung cancer study,” he said.
Dr. Huang added: “Without the samples provided by Valley Hospital, this study would have been impossible to complete. They are excellent collaborators and we’re looking forward to continuing this partnership in our next trial, which we hope will confirm the important findings we made in this initial pilot study.”
The United States Preventive Services Task Force strongly recommends an annual screening for those between 55 to 80 years old with a history of smoking and who are at high risk for having lung cancer. If the accuracy of AKAP4 as a diagnostic method is confirmed in a more robust study, a simple blood test to suit annual screening might be developed.
“Cancer is a dreadful disease which kills more than half of patients. The other half survives for only one reason — if the disease is detected early enough to be eradicated completely. This is only possible if you have a test that can detect cancer non-invasively early enough so patients can benefit from early, rather than late-stage treatment. If the tumors are detected early enough, the survival rate can dramatically improve from less than 5 percent to over 55 percent in lung and pancreatic cancers,” said Ganepola. “Our advanced capabilities can meet the high demand cancer research required to care for cancer patients at all levels. Our early research on metastatic colon cancer is considered among the best in the world and we maintain that lead today.”
Dr. Ganepola is optimistic about what protein analysis and genetic research might reveal, noting: “Cancer is basically a genetic disease, but not usually inherited from birth. Ninety percent of cancers are acquired as mutations of the genome, consisting of DNA and RNA molecules. If you look at DNA-RNA-protein, the axis of all biological growth, protein is very important and will lead as a cancer biomarker in the next five to 10 years as technology advances.”