The early detection of occult lung cancer.
These sputum tests offer great promise in determining a molecular diagnosis of lung cancer far in advance of clinical presentation. Any or all of these tests could be incorporated into the routine management of individuals at risk for developing primary or second primary lung cancer; however, several issues must be considered before these tests are ready for clinical application. First, test performance characteristics must be confirmed in prospective trials. For several of these tests, those trials are currently underway. Second, management and intervention strategies appropriate to the stage at which lung cancer is diagnosed must be developed. The ability to detect lung cancer at the stage of clonal expansion, well in advance of malignant invasion of the basement membrane, suggests that noninvasive, chemoprevention might be appropriate in such cases. Preliminary studies of chemopreventive agents are now underway at the National Cancer Institute. Several of these agents could be delivered by inhaler to place a maximum dose directly on the transformed epithelium. Clinical trials are needed that evaluate combined diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for their impact on the incidence of clinical lung cancer. Finally, the larger public health issues of cost and accessibility of lung cancer screening must be considered before these advances in sputum and helical CT screening can reach their potential.
- Mulshine JL
- Tockman MS