Lung cancer hope as blood test proves ‘80pc accurate’
A NEW blood test for lung cancer that could save thousands of lives has been twice as successful as hoped.
In 2012, Scotland became the first country in the world to begin a large-scale pilot of the new technique to target the disease, which kills 5,000 people north of the Border every year.
The screening detects the body’s reaction to cancer rather than the disease itself, which can be more obvious earlier in the illness.
By the time most people show symptoms of lung cancer, it is too late to save them – giving the new test the potential to save thousands of Scots.
Scientists hoped the trial, cofunded by NHS Scotland and run by Dundee University, would pick up half of cases early enough to treat.
But remarkable preliminary findings from the study suggest it successfully detects eight out of ten tumours.
Positive results could lead to a nationwide screening programme.
One of those whose cancer was caught early by being in the trial was Dundee woman Shirley Dolan.
Mrs Dolan said: ‘I would never have dreamt in a million years I had lung cancer because I didn’t feel ill, I didn’t have a cough, I wasn’t breathless. Without the test, we would never have known.
‘It was because I joined this study that we found my cancer at an early stage.’
During the trial, health chiefs screened smokers and ex-smokers at the highest risk of developing lung cancer. They used a blood test to check for antibodies linked with proteins present when cancer is in its early stages. Patients with increased levels of the antibodies were sent for a CT scan to find out if they had the disease.
Sixty GP practices across Scotland tested around 10,000 patients who were highlighted as being at higher risk of developing the disease over the next four years. Study leader Dr Stuart Schembri said: ‘In the US, if you are a high-risk smoker, you will be advised to get an annual CT scan. The difficulty about that is the US have a very different way of providing healthcare – it involves insurance.
‘In the UK that is not the case – there is no national screening programme for lung cancer.’
By following up the health data of participants over the next ten years, researchers will be able to measure if the blood test is reliable at detecting early cancer and if this actually saves lives.
A decision could then be made on establishing a nationwide lung cancer screening programme, similar to bowel cancer screening, also led by the University of Dundee.
‘Would never have dreamt I had it’
Beat cancer: Shirley Dolan