Breathing diagnosis: Scientists are developing a new rapid lung cancer test

Breast cancer diagnosis: easier detection of lung cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Europe. This type of cancer is also so dangerous because it is often only recognized late. German researchers are currently working on a rapid test for early detection. The diagnosis should be made by breathing air.

Lung cancer is often diagnosed late
Only a few days ago it had been reported that there were fewer lung cancer deaths from passive smoking in Germany. But according to health experts, this type of cancer is still underestimated. The disease is also so dangerous because it is usually recognized late, because symptoms of lung cancer are often not noticed. Experts believe that around 85 percent of illnesses are related to tobacco use. The earlier a tumor is recognized, the better the treatment options. A new early detection test could simplify the diagnostic process.

Detect disease at an early stage
It works in a similar way to an alcohol test, in which drivers have to blow into a tube: "Take a deep breath - and exhale again" - this is what a test for lung cancer could look like in the future.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have developed a method that can detect the disease at an early stage.

The early lung cancer test is not yet ready for the market, but initial tests have given good results.

"Breathing air analysis could make the detection of lung cancer in the early stages easier and more reliable, but it will not be able to completely replace conventional methods," said Guillermo Barreto, group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Bad Nauheim in a message.

"However, it can be used in addition to better identify early stages of cancer and reduce false positives."

Differences between degenerate and healthy cells
To arrive at their results, the researchers analyzed RNA molecules that are released into the air we breathe and that differ between healthy volunteers and lung cancer patients.

In contrast to DNA, RNA is not the same in every cell. Several RNA variants, and thus different proteins, can be created from one DNA section. Such variants are present in a certain ratio in healthy cells.

The scientists found that the GATA6 and NKX2 genes form RNA variants that differ in their amount between degenerate and healthy cells. The cancer cells are like lung cells at the embryonic stage.

They reported on their results in the specialist magazine "EMBO Molecular Medicine".

Still a long way to go
The scientists have developed a method that they can use to isolate RNA molecules. "These occur in the breath not only in small quantities, but often also broken down into small parts," says the message.

They then examined the composition of the RNA in subjects with and without lung cancer and used this data to calculate a model for diagnosing the disease.

In a test on 138 subjects with a known health condition, the test identified 98 percent of lung cancer patients. 90 percent of the abnormalities discovered were actually cancer.

According to a message from the dpa news agency, Barretto said that the method should now be tested on more than 2,000 patients in five different lung centers. Furthermore, the number of markers is to be expanded in order to differentiate between different types of lung cancer.

According to the news agency, Jürgen Wolf from Cologne University Hospital, an expert in lung cancer diagnostics, finds the results from Bad Nauheim "exciting".

According to the dpa, however, he emphasized: "There is still a very long way to go before use." It will be crucial whether the breath test only works in advanced lung cancer or in patients with low tumor burden.

According to Wolf, it is definitely “an approach that should be followed up”.

Fourth leading cause of death in Germany
According to the Federal Statistical Office in Germany, lung and bronchial cancer is the fourth leading cause of death. According to this, a total of 45,224 people died from it in 2015.

"The risk of dying from lung and bronchial cancer, especially among women, has increased significantly in recent years," said Torsten Schelhase from the Destatis department, according to dpa.

A study by an international team of researchers also showed that the lung cancer death rate in women has risen across Germany.

It had already been shown in previous studies that the late effects of smoking in particular are the reason why the number of cancer deaths among women will increase in the future.

"No smoking" protects against cancer
The sooner a tumor is discovered, the greater the chance of recovery from cancer. "If this were possible at an earlier stage, up to 70% of the patients could survive five years or more", the German Cancer Society wrote on its website.

“However, since lung cancer does not cause any symptoms at an early stage, it is almost always discovered by chance. If symptoms and symptoms are caused by lung cancer, there is usually an advanced stage of the disease, ”it says.

However, in contrast to other types of cancer, there are no regular checkups here yet.

While studies suggest that lung cancer screening can save lives in smokers, it remains controversial. The cancer society, for example, refers to the high number of false positive results.

This means that patients are suspected of cancer even though they are healthy.

Other paths have long been followed in order to detect lung cancer earlier. According to Wolf, blood tests are also promising. "A lot is happening at the moment," said the expert.

However, tests on sputum, the sputum, are out of date because they have been proven to be useless. "You can put that aside."

Quitting smoking is an easy and already available option that helps prevent death from lung cancer. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Exhaled breath signatures for lung cancer detection: the LuCID study (October 2021).