Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Blood Test for Lung Cancer in the Works

Test in Development Could Spare Patients Invasive Procedures, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 13, 2010 (Coronado, Calif.) -- A blood test under study to help diagnose lung cancer looks promising, researchers reported Tuesday at a cancer meeting in California.

If perfected, the test could help spare patients the need to undergo invasive procedures such as biopsies when lung cancer is suspected, they predict.

''Currently, 20% to 25% of surgeries done for suspected lung cancer turn out to be benign diagnoses," says Steven Dubinett, MD, professor of medicine and pathology and director of the Lung Cancer Research Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles. He is the senior author on the study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research-International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's joint conference in Coronado, Calif.

About 219,000 new cases of lung cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 159,000 deaths were expected.

According to Dubinett, about one in 500 chest X-rays shows a lung nodule of ''indeterminant significance." When that occurs, the next step is to examine the suspicious area, with the physician ordering a biopsy or inserting a scope into the lungs to evaluate further.

Lung Cancer Blood Test: Study Details

Building on their own previous research and that of others, Dubinett and his colleagues assembled a panel of 40 potential lung cancer biomarkers -- substances found in the blood that can be measured and detected with blood tests.

These biomarkers, Dubinett says, are made up of proteins thought to contribute to lung cancer progression or whose levels may be changed as a result of the tumor. The thinking among experts studying these biomarkers is that they will be present in the blood of people who are in the very early stages of lung cancer.

The researchers took blood from 90 lung cancer patients and from 56 people at high risk for lung cancer because of a heavy smoking history who had quit for at least a year.

They found that 33 of the 40 biomarkers were different between the lung cancer patients and those not diagnosed with lung cancer. They found that the panel of biomarkers was accurate in identifying lung cancer patients 88% of the time. It also correctly identified patients who did not have lung cancer 79% of the time.

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options