Breath Tests for Cancer
In addition, new screening tools such as genetic sequencing and breath tests for cancer metabolites are on the horizon and could further improve screening accuracy in individual patients. For example, advances in sensor technologies and breath collection methods are paving the way for breath tests that could separate patients with lung cancer from those without. The metabolism of people with lung cancer is different to that of healthy people and this is reflected in the chemical signature of their breath. Thus, the tests could become one of the first steps taken to identify patients at risk. Several breath-test prototypes are being developed by companies around the world.
Another future method for detecting lung cancer might be blood tests for genetic sequencing. While much remains to be elucidated within the area of genomic profiling and disease, researchers have recently identified the most common genetic mutations associated with lung cancer subtypes. CT scans could be used to verify positive results from such tests in individual patients. Conversely, these tests could be used to reduce false positive rates from screening CT scans. Other diagnostic tools, such as detecting lung cancer using biomarkers circulating in the blood, are at earlier stages of research and development.
New Surgical Techniques
Meanwhile, treatment possibilities are also improving. Positive results from immunotherapy clinical trials were reported earlier this year. As the field of personalized medicine expands, it may be possible to better match patients to targeted therapies designed for subgroups of cancer. Surgical techniques are developing, too. For example, there are ongoing endeavors to establish improved image-guided minimally invasive procedures for removing cancerous tissue through small chest incisions in the early stages of lung cancer. Such innovative approaches may be what is needed to increase patients’ survival and improve their quality of life.