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Blood Protein May Be Biomarker for Lung Cancer

Scientists have reported discovery of a protein in the blood of lung cancer patients that could possibly be used in a test for the disease — difficult to diagnose in its earliest and most treatable stages — and to develop drugs that stop lung cancer from spreading. Their study appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research. In the report, Dr. Je-Yoel Cho and colleagues in South Korea note that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Lung cancer is so deadly because of its tendency to metastasize to distant sites in the body, such as the liver or the brain. Early detection could improve survival rates, but it is very difficult to detect lung cancer at early stages with today's technology. To find a better diagnostic tool, the researchers studied the proteins in the blood of lung cancer patients in search of red flags that could signal the disease's presence. They focused on adenocarcinoma, which accounts for one in three cases and is the most rapidly increasing form of lung cancer in women. Dr. Cho and colleagues found elevated levels of a protein called serum amyloid A (SAA) in the blood and lung tissue of lung adenocarcinoma patients, compared to healthy people. Their work showed that high amounts of SAA were unique to lung cancers (compared with other lung diseases or other cancers) and that the protein was involved in metastasis of cancer cells from the original tumor site. The researchers said that the protein could be used as a diagnostic marker for lung cancer and as a target for developing drugs that stop metastasis. [Press release] [Journal of Proteome Research abstract]