Roswell Park Researcher Aims to Develop Screening Test for Lung Cancer

MicroRNAs or signatures of microRNAs being used to predict disease state
Friday, December 9, 2011
Dr. Yendamuri hopes to develop blood test to diagnose cancer without biopsy
Work supported by a $100K OneBreath award from CHEST Foundation
Project will expand on preliminary findings on microRNA profiling

Lung cancer takes a heavy toll, contributing to more cancer deaths in the United States each year than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Contributing to this poor prognosis is the fact that lung cancer often goes undetected until the disease has reached an advanced and more difficult-to-treat stage.

Currently, biopsies are the only sure way to detect lung cancer, and they are highly involved and invasive for patients. That’s why Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Sai Yendamuri, MD, FCCP, hopes to develop a blood test to help diagnose the cancer in patients before they undergo a biopsy. Dr. Yendamuri’s 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 masses.”

Dr. Yendamuri, Attending Surgeon in Roswell Park'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 pathology.”

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.

The CHEST Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), an 18,300-member international medical specialty society. The CHEST Foundation mission is to provide resources to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases of the chest. Since its inception in 1996, The CHEST Foundation has awarded more than $6 million to ACCP members to foster cutting-edge clinical research that can provide new treatment options for patients around the world.

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