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Wistar Wins $1M to Develop Early Lung Cancer Dx

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Investigators at the Wistar Institute have received a $1 million grant from Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program to fund a partnership with the Christiana Care Health System and Temple University Health System to develop a diagnostic test to catch lung cancer in its early stages.

The researchers plan to analyze samples taken from patients recruited from Christiana's Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Temple to develop a blood-based test, and a simplified method for conducting the collection and analysis, for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer.

Wistar Professor Louise Showe, who directs the institute's genomics and bioinformatics facilities, will lead the research, which expands on her earlier studies that found a correlation between the presence of NSCLC and gene expression patterns in peripheral mononuclear blood cells.

In other recent research, Showe and others found that gene expression patterns change after tumor removal and may return to normal after surgery, and they found a panel of genes that could be used to distinguish between malignant tumors and non-malignant lung nodules, suggesting that a blood test could help doctors make treatment decisions and avoid unnecessary surgeries.

“It has become clear to us that we are on the correct path, and we are working to further validate and expand our findings by studying more patient samples so that we have enough evidence to take this concept into clinical trials,” Showe said in a statement.

“Our recent published studies show that with a simple blood draw, we can detect lung cancer, show the effectiveness of cancer surgery by sampling the same patient’s blood for analysis after surgery, and even determine if the cancer may return," she added.

The array-based gene expression test the researchers are developing initially will be used to measure whether a suspicious lung nodule is malignant, which CT scans cannot do, according to Showe's grant proposal. The investigators also plan to simplify the sample collection to make it more appropriate for use in a variety of clinical settings including doctors' offices and more remote locations.

They also plan to use the PAXgene collection system from PreAnalytiX to analyze 600 samples to test and validate the new array-based test.

The CURE program, created with funds from the Tobacco Settlement Fund, supports competitive research grants like this one and formula research grants that are based on how much funding an institution receives from the National Institutes of Health.