Examining Lung Cancer In Non-Smokers

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2009-05-04 15:14

Government and private sector cancer scientists today launched a research partnership to find biomarkers for lung cancer that develops in people who have never smoked. The research studies are designed to create a better understanding of the biology of lung cancer and to develop a test to detect early-stage lung cancer in lifetime nonsmokers.

The Canary Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research in early cancer detection, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, are sponsoring this multi-institutional effort. NCI’s Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) and the Canary Foundation will provide initial funding of $1 million each.

Research has shown that lung cancer in people who have never smoked differs in many ways from the disease in smokers. For example, non-smokers with lung cancer have different tumor tissue structure, gene mutations, and demographic profiles than smokers with lung cancer. "Efforts to study the disease in never-smokers have been limited, and no screening tests or approaches for identifying individuals at increased risk are available today," said Samir Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and team leader for Canary Foundation-funded projects. "This inability to recognize non-smokers who are at risk often leads to delays in diagnosis and results in cancer identification at an advanced stage, and this problem is what we’re tackling with this new study."

Global estimates suggest that as many as 25 percent of all lung cancers worldwide — 15 percent of those in men and 50 percent of those in women — are not attributable to smoking. "If you consider lung cancer in never smokers as a separate category, it ranks as the seventh most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, even before cancers of the cervix, pancreas and prostate," commented Adi Gazdar, M.B.B.S., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and team leader for the NCI-funded studies.

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