Unveiling lung cancer detection by new method

According to the biological engineersand medical scientists at

Michael Wang, M.D., Ph.D., right, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, and Li-Qun Gu, Ph.D., associate professor of biological engineering, have developed a new technology for the early detection of lung cancer. Worldwide and in the United States, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death. (Credit: University of Missouri School of Medicine)

the University of Missouri, they have discovered a solution which could provide a much earlier warning signal at the advanced stages of lung cancer.

“Early detection can save lives, but there is currently no proven screening test available for lung cancer,” said Michael Wang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at MU and a corresponding author for the article. “We’ve developed highly sensitive technology that can detect a specific molecule type in the bloodstream when lung cancer is present.”

Lung cancer is considered to be the most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide and in the United States particularly. In the U.S., more than 221,000 people will be newly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011, and more than 155,000 people will die from the disease this year.

In this method, blood plasma samples are put through a protein-based nanopore to detect a change in a specific small ribonucleic acid (microRNA) molecule that is often elevated in lung cancer patients. By applying an ionic current to the nanopore, the scientists measured changes in the current that occur when the microRNA molecule associated with lung cancer is present.

“That altered current acts as a signal or bio-signature that is related to lung cancer,” said Li-Qun Gu, PhD, an associate professor of biological engineering at MU and a corresponding author for the article. “Our new nanopore sensor is selective and sensitive enough to detect microRNAs at the single molecular level in plasma samples from lung cancer patients.

“While there are many research labs that focus on nanopore applications, this is the first time that nanopore technology has been used to detect lung cancer,” Gu added. “This technology could possibly be used in the future to detect other cancer types as well as other types of diseases with specific DNA or RNA in the blood.”

MU research published in the article was partially supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and University of Missouri Intellectual Property Fast Track Initiative. The authors are associated with MU’s College of Engineering, School of Medicine, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.


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