Research & Education

Early Study Suggests Sputum-Based Biomarkers May Add to Benefit of Screening

Testing May Improve Diagnosis of Lung Cancer in Smokers
December 5, 2013

Contact: Kristin Richeimer

IASLC Director of Membership

(720) 325-2953

Early Study Suggests that Sputum-Based Biomarkers May Add to Benefit of Lung Cancer Screening

Testing May Improve Diagnosis of Lung Cancer in Smokers

DENVER – Researchers have found that analysis of microRNAs (miRNAs) in sputum increases the specificity of lung cancer screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT). The findings hold promise for a noninvasive method to improve the ability to detect lung cancer at its early stage, when therapeutic interventions have a curative potential.

Until recently, available methods of lung cancer screening have not been beneficial nor cost-effective.  LDCT is now recommended for lung cancer screening in specific high-risk subgroups, as it has been shown to decrease lung cancer-related mortality. However, the specificity of LDCT is relatively low, which means many people are exposed to the risks of additional testing for lung nodules that are actually benign. The authors report that use of sputum-based biomarkers can help to increase the specificity of LDCT and improve the diagnosis of lung cancer in smokers.

The study, which will be published in the January issue of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s journal, the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO), builds on a previous investigation in which researchers identified 12 miRNAs whose expressions in tumor tissues were associated with lung cancer. In the current study, two of these miRNAs were found to best predict lung cancer. The use of the two miRNAs in combination with LDCT produced a specificity that was significantly higher than LDCT alone.

“We are undertaking a large population study to extensively and vigorously evaluate the usefulness of the biomarkers for the early detection of lung cancer in smokers, which is crucial to translate the newly discovered biomarkers to clinical settings,” saysFeng Jiang, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, The University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore. Dr. Jiang is a coauthor of the study and a member of IASLC.


About the IASLC

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association’s membership includes more than 3,500 lung cancer specialists in 80 countries. To learn more about IASLC please visit