Early Detection Research Network

Autoantibodies in lung cancer: possibilities for early detection and subsequent cure.

People with lung cancer usually present at a late stage in the course of their disease when their chances of long-term survival are low. At present there is little to offer for early diagnosis, even in those at high risk of developing the disease. Autoantibodies have been shown to be present in the circulation of people with various forms of solid tumour before cancer-associated antigens can be detected, and these molecules can be measured up to 5 years before symptomatic disease.

To assess the potential of a panel of tumour-associated autoantibody profiles as an aid to other lung cancer screening modalities.

Plasma from normal controls (n = 50), patients with non-small cell lung cancer (n = 82) and patients with small cell lung cancer (n = 22) were investigated for the presence of autoantibodies to p53, c-myc, HER2, NY-ESO-1, CAGE, MUC1 and GBU4-5 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Raised levels of autoantibodies were seen to at least 1/7 antigens in 76% of all the patients with lung cancer plasma tested, and 89% of node-negative patients, with a specificity of 92%. There was no significant difference between the detection rates in the lung cancer subgroups, although more patients with squamous cell carcinomas (92%) could be identified.

Measurement of an autoantibody response to one or more tumour-associated antigens in an optimised panel assay may provide a sensitive and specific blood test to aid the early detection of lung cancer.

Barnes AC, Chapman CJ, Luxemburger U, McElveen JE, Murray A, Robertson JF, Sahin U, Türeci O, Wiewrodt R

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Thorax, 2008, 63 (3)