Boston University School of Medicine landed a $13.6 million grant from the U.S. Defense Dept. lung cancer research program to study technologies focused on the early detection of lung cancer.
The five-year study, the Detecting Early Lung Cancer Among Military Personnel consortium, will focus on veterans and active military personnel at number of military hospitals and VA medical centers across the country.
Smoking rates are 50 percent higher in military populations than civilian populations and veterans are between 25 and 75 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than non-veterans, according to BU.
The study will be led by Dr. Avrum Spira, BU School of Medicine associate professor and Boston Medical Center pulmonologist.
"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," Spira said in prepared remarks. "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."
One of the study goals is to use molecular biomarkers to more accurately distinguish between benign and cancerous lung nodules observed in CT scans.
During the first phase of the study, researchers will study a group of 500 current and former smokers whose CT scans showed lung nodules that posed diagnostic problems for doctors who had to decide whether to monitor the patient with follow up scans or do invasive lung biopsies.
The goal of the second phase of the study is to identify biomarkers that will predict which smokers are more at risk for lung cancer even with no abnormalities present on CT scans.
Researchers will recruit 1,000 high-risk patients who will be followed for four to five years. Scientists hope to discover biomarkers that can identify patients more at risk for developing lung cancer.
"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," added Spira. "Lung cancer is the most lethal of all cancers, and this research could potentially lead to less people dying from the disease."
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