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Sputum Biomarkers May Help ID Malignant Lung Nodules

Last Updated: January 16, 2015.

An experimental test which checks sputum for three microRNA biomarkers of lung cancer was able to distinguish early-stage lung cancer from noncancerous nodules the majority of the time, according to findings published in the Jan. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

FRIDAY, Jan. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental test which checks sputum for three microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers of lung cancer was able to distinguish early-stage lung cancer from noncancerous nodules the majority of the time, according to findings published in the Jan. 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Feng Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in College Park, and colleagues first tried the test in 122 people who were found to have a lung nodule after they underwent a chest computed tomography scan. The sputum test was 82.93 percent accurate in identifying lung cancer, the researchers found, and 87.84 percent accurate in correctly identifying when a lung nodule was not cancerous.

In two other groups of patients tested, the sensitivity and specificity rates were 82.09 and 88.41 percent and 80.52 and 86.08 percent, respectively. However, those results are still not high enough for the panel to be used for diagnosing patients, so more work must be done to boost accuracy, the researchers said.

"We are now applying new technologies to identify additional miRNA sputum biomarkers of lung cancer with the goal of expanding our biomarker panel to generate a test with high efficiency that can be practically used in clinical settings for lung cancer early detection," Jiang said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

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