Simple test for lung cancer unveiled
Hamilton researchers have developed a simple and inexpensive lung cancer test in the fight against a disease that killed 17,000 Canadians last year.
Respirologist Dr. Gerard Cox presented initial results of a pilot study on this new screening approach, called LungAlert, at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society in San Francisco yesterday.
In his study, Cox said the test was able to separate cancers from non-cancers and even detect the disease in its early stages - a vital requirement if the new test is to help save lives.
Of 76 patients, LungAlert detected 20 of 23 cancers.
Most significantly, the test detected 13 of 15 early-stage cancers which Cox said are important to identify because they're at a stage where they can still be treated.
LungAlert was developed by Toronto's International Medical Innovations Inc., whose product development is based at McMaster University.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths and Cox said that, while tests are available, none of them are simple, widely available or easy to administer.
By comparison, LungAlert is a very easy, non-invasive test, he said.
The test detects a cancer-associated sugar in sputum (phlegm). A doctor asks a patient to spit up sputum by coughing into a cup. The sputum is then put on a slide and stained. The test causes a colour change, which is read with a colour reader, detecting who has lung cancer and who doesn't. The colour is darker if a patient has lung cancer.
Cox said there's a ``huge need for an easily available, easily done screening test to deal with people who don't feel sick - just to look and see if they are developing lung cancer. That's what this test might be able to do.''
He said if doctors wait until a patient feels something, they've often waited too long.