“If detection were possible at an early stage, as many as 70% of the patients could live another five years and more,” says the German Cancer Society (DKG).
When a tumour is detected early, it’s almost always by chance. That’s why an early test for high-risk groups – primarily older smokers, but also people with a family history of the disease – would be a huge boon.
Scientists isolated the extremely low concentrations of RNA molecules released from lung tissue into exhaled breath, noted the RNA profile in subjects with and without lung cancer, and used the data to devise a model for diagnosing the disease.
Certain molecules of RNA – a nucleic acid in all living cells whose main role is to carry the genetic code from DNA needed to synthesise proteins – are altered by cancer growth.
“The breath test could make detection of early-stage lung cancer easier and more reliable, but it won’t completely supplant conventional techniques,” says Guillermo Barreto, a working-group leader at MPI-HLR.