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Cheek cells could aid in lung cancer detection

There's a new test to check for lung cancer with an oral health connection, according to the American College of Chest Physicians.

According to the ACCP, a new study says cells scraped from the inner part of the cheek may eventually be an easier and cheaper alternative for screening patients at risk for lung cancer.

"New data suggest that the effects of lung cancer can be measured as far away as skin cells in the mouth," said lead researcher Dr. Bojana Turic, who is also the director of clinical and regulatory affairs for Perceptronix, Inc., a cancer diagnostics medical device company. "Although a clinical test based on [cheek] cells is still in development, the method of analyzing cheek cells to detect cancer is showing interesting results."

In the study, Dr. Turic and researchers analyzed random cheek scrapings of 150 confirmed lung cancer patients and 990 high-risk patients using Automated Quantitative Cytometry, a system that predicts the likelihood of cancer. From the scrapings, the AQC showed a high degree of accuracy for detecting Stage I lung cancer, which comprised 47 of the 150 cases.

"Stage I lung cancer is considered treatable, but most lung cancers are currently detected beyond Stage I," said Dr. Turic. "We believe that early detection is the key to reducing lung cancer mortality and have focused our approach around detecting Stage I lung cancer."

Although the test is not yet intended for screening the general population, researchers are hopeful that the AQC method will become an accurate, noninvasive, inexpensive, and easy-to-administer detection test for patients at risk for lung cancer.

"Ultimately, this test could be administered in primary care settings or dental offices," Dr. Turic said. "The procedure is simple enough that specimen collection could be done by patients themselves."

Researchers stress that additional clinical testing of the AQC method is needed, using a sufficient number and appropriate sample of patients in order to validate the tests performance.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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