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AACR: Test May Detect Lung Cancer in Smoker's Breath

Assay measures methylation of tumor suppressor genes, may be diagnostic tool

THURSDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- An assay that can detect DNA methylation in tumor suppressor genes in the breath of current and ex-smokers could potentially be used one day to predict or diagnose lung cancer, according to a small pilot study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting in Boston.

Simon D. Spivack, M.D., of the New York State Department of Health, and colleagues conducted a pilot study in which they looked at methylation in six tumor suppressor genes in current and former smokers. Seven subjects breathed for 10 minutes into a handheld device. The condensed vapor was tested for methylation.

The assay identified the methylated form in all six tumor suppressor genes. It was negative for RASSF1A in non-smokers and positive in current and ex-smokers. Methylation varied for DAPK, dependent on smoking status. The other four genes (p16, MGMT, PAX5B and CDH1) methylated in lung cancer were minimally or not methylated.

"This approach is technically feasible, and if further research demonstrates the assay can measure DNA in such a way that it diagnoses or predicts lung cancer, this could be important for non-invasive lung cancer testing," said Spivak in a prepared statement.

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