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BU to Lead $13.6M DOD Lung Cancer Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Department of Defense has awarded Boston University Medical School a $13.6 million grant to lead a multi-site study to discover molecular biomarkers that can be used for the early detection of lung cancer.

The five-year study will seek to identify markers that could help physicians decide which patients require biopsies after having CT scans and could predict which smokers who had no abnormalities in their CT scans will be most likely to get lung cancer.

The collaborators on the project will include military hospitals and Veteran's Affairs centers across the country, as well as researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Brown University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Current lung cancer detection methods involve invasive procedures that are often done only after symptoms occur, and by that time, the cancer has spread outside of the lungs and can be difficult to treat," explained principal investigator Avrum Spira, an associate professor of medicine, pathology, and bioinformatics at BUSM and a pulmonologist at Boston Medical Center. "Using advanced imaging techniques and testing molecular biomarkers that indicate risk of a future lung cancer diagnosis will help in the development of non-invasive, accurate methods to detect lung cancer before it becomes untreatable."

The Department of Defense's Lung Cancer Research Program funds studies such as this one because smoking rates in the military are about 50 percent higher than in the civilian population, and veterans are 25 to 75 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than non-veterans.

This project, the Detecting Early Lung Cancer Among Military Personnel (DECAMP) Consortium, will address two specific clinical questions that arose after the completion of the National Lung Screening Trial. That study found that lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans can reduce lung cancer mortality, but it has a high false positive rate among certain patients.

"The non-invasive methods to be developed will have the capability to distinguish between patients with or without lung cancer, as well as identify patients who show early signs of a higher risk for the disease," Spira said.

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