New Research Helps Understand Lung Cancer Progression

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer in both men and women. With many Americans having a long history of smoking cigarettes that is unlikely to change soon. A staggering 159,260 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2014, which is approximately 27% of all cancer deaths. Over 400,000 Americans are currently battling lung cancer.

Unfortunately lung cancer is both prevalent and extremely dangerous, remaining one of the most deadly forms of the disease. The amount of damage that lung cancer has caused our society is massive and it is expected to continue for many years because of cigarette usage. Surprisingly, cigarette usage is increasing in many parts of the world!

Thankfully, some new research will help specialists understand how lung cancer spreads, potentially leading to new treatments. Researchers found that lung cancer cells had severed proteins, which helped them separate and proliferate through the body. While cells do normally separate, cancer cells are especially prone to cell separation.

By understanding how these proteins work, researchers believe they may be able to prevent cancer cells from metastasizing. One protein link which is important in the functioning of lung cancer is TIAM1. TIAM1 helps determine how strong the links are between cancer cells in the lungs.

Lead researcher Dr. Angeliki Malliri explains: “This important research shows for the first time how lung cancer cells sever ties with their neighbors and start to spread around the body, by hijacking the cells’ recycling process and sending it into overdrive. Targeting this flaw could help stop lung cancer from spreading,”

If drugs can be developed to change the way specific proteins function, researchers may develop drugs that completely stop lung cancer from spreading. If the research comes to fruition, it could save millions of lives.

Low Dose CT Scans for Detecting Lung Cancer

Lung CT Scan

Lung CT Scan

Healthday has reported that a new study has found a new way of detecting lung cancer early. The study has found that by using low dose CT scans on high risk patients, lung cancer can be spotted much early than with previous detection methods.

CT scans are able to detect anomalies in the lungs earlier than x-rays, which can give patients a significant advantage from starting treatment earlier than normal. The scans were used on patients with high risk factors, either from environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals that cause lung cancer or family history.

There is a radiation risk associated with CT scans, but new computerized tomography technologies are limiting that level of exposure. In high risk patients that downside is offset by the benefit of early treatment and avoid unnecessary biopsies that the CT scan can determine are non-threatening.

Dr. Stephen Machnicki of Lenox Hill Hospital suggests that this method for detection will someday be very commonplace: “It may someday be like using mammograms,”. Dr Machnicki suggests that the study only confirms what many radiologists have suspected for a long time, that low dose CT screening can be very effective in spotting lung cancer in it’s early stages.

The study was based on results from the National Lung Screening Trial, which included more than 50’000 heavy smokers, so patients in the high risk category for lung cancer. The study concluded that by early screening with low dose CT scans, risk of death from lung cancer was lowered by as much as 20% compared to standard detection methods.

Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States with more than 200’000 new cases diagnosed every year and almost 160’000 deaths recorded every year. Most of the cancers occur from tobacco use, but exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace is also a prominent cause of lung cancer.

The researchers in a second study used people who had been very hardcore smokes (a pack a day for 20 or 30 years), had an occupation with high lung cancer risk, a family history of lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They gave these high risk patients low dose CT scans and looked for nodules or other abnormalities in the lungs. Once a nodule or abnormality was spotted, patients were advised to get a biopsy. They found that 4% of patients were determined to have lung cancer in it’s early stages, detected with the assistance of the CT scan.

Sometimes the CT scan in inconclusive and small nodules may not always be a cancer beginning to form. Often nodules are just inflamed or there is scarring on the lungs which looks like some kind of abnormality. So there still needs to be some research into how best to use the low dose CT scans and finding which nodes are of real concern.

At this stage, researchers are considering regular low dose CT scans as an option for patients in the high risk category for lung cancer. Patients who have been life long smokers would probably benefit from an annual scan to look at the condition of their lungs, and doing more regular scans increases the radiation risk from the CT scan. However, aggressive cancers may develop so quickly that they can develop in between scans, making this approach ineffective.

Of course as technology progresses we will see more effective use of CT scans and hopefully lower radiation risk from the devices. Eventually we may be use CT scans to check for many more forms of cancer in their early stages, and researchers continue to look at all of the potential uses.