Early detection and prevention
When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage it is more likely to be treated successfully. This is especially true for lung cancer where around 70% caught at the earliest stage survive for at least one year, compared to fewer than 15% of those diagnosed at the latest stage. Currently most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced.
There are two major components of early detection of cancer: education to promote early diagnosis and screening. Screening refers to the use of simple, non-invasive, low cost tests across a healthy population in order to identify individuals who have disease, but do not yet have symptoms.
Over the past two decades there have been a number of randomised controlled trials to test the effectiveness of low-dose CT scanning to detect lung cancer early. However there are still a number of unanswered questions on the benefits and potential risks of CT screening before its widespread implementation. The main problem is the high false positive rate resulting in unnecessary repeat scans, operations and anxiety for patients and their relatives.
To combat this there have been many other studies investigating potential biomarkers from patient’s samples, including blood, urine, sputum, breath and bronchoscopy. These hope to identify a biomarker indicative of lung cancer as apposed to other disease processes. While there has been some success in feasibility studies none have been recommended for use in lung cancer screening. Therefore more research is needed to identify suitable biomarkers that are low cost, non-invasive and have high sensitivity and selectivity for the early detection of lung cancer. The LLCA is working on trying to develop new robust lung cancer biomarkers to enhance the effectiveness of CT screening. These biomarkers may also be suitable for detecting the early onset of resistance mechanisms that evolve when the tumours are under therapeutic pressure, especially when combined with novel radionuclide- or MRI- based imaging biomarkers that are being developed within the LLCA.
Active Research Projects
– Mechanomics project led by Dr Marc Chadeau-Hyam and funded by Cancer Research UK