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Lung Cancer Blood Test: Can it Find Early Mesothelioma?

lung cancer blood test and mesothelioma survival

Mesothelioma patients and their doctors may have reason to be optimistic about a new lung cancer blood test.

A random trial of more than 12,000 high-risk people in Scotland shows the EarlyCDT test combined with CT imaging can detect cancer early. Earlier diagnosis is likely to lead to longer survival of lung cancers like pleural mesothelioma.

Researchers presented their findings on the new lung cancer blood test at a global conference this week in Spain.

Largest Lung Cancer Trial

As in the US, lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in Scotland. Pleural mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer. Although it is rare, mesothelioma is more common in the UK than in other parts of the world. This is likely due to the area’s high use of asbestos after World War II. As with lung cancer, smoking raises the risk for mesothelioma.

The new trial included current and former smokers from Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Tayside. Trial participants were between 50 and 75 and at risk for developing cancer in the next 2 years. 

Patients were randomly assigned to get the new EarlyCDT while others got standard care. If a patient had a positive lung cancer blood test, they had chest X-rays and CT scans. They had follow-up scans every six months if the first one showed no cancer. 

According to a BBC report, the trial may be the largest of its kind in the world.

EarlyCDT Looks for Immune System Antibodies

Cancer triggers an immune response in the body. The immune response produces certain antibodies. The new lung cancer blood test looks for these antibodies to detect early cancer. 

In the EarlyCDT group, 15 percent more people who developed lung cancer were diagnosed at an early stage. The trial also showed these people were also less likely to die of their disease. 

Chief investigator Frank Sullivan, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, says these are “landmark findings” and likely to have “globally significant implications”. Those implications could extend to thousands of pleural mesothelioma patients around the world. 

Longer Mesothelioma Survival May Hinge on a Lung Cancer Blood Test

Right now, there is no way to detect pleural mesothelioma before symptoms develop. By the time a patient develops symptoms of mesothelioma, the disease is usually advanced. 

At an advanced stage, mesothelioma resists most standard treatments. Many mesothelioma patients die of the disease within 18 months of diagnosis. 

A lung cancer blood test like EarlyCDT could change that. Smaller mesothelioma tumors are more likely to be operable. A smaller tumor may also be more responsive to treatments like chemotherapy. 

A company called Oncimmune developed EarlyCDT. The CEO of Oncimmune, Adam Hill, says the company wants to “build the leading immunodiagnostic platform in the field of oncology.”

Researchers presented their findings at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Barcelona earlier this week. 


“Scottish Study Demonstrates that Autoantibody Test Followed by CR Imaging May Reduce Lung Cancer Mortality”, September 9, 2019, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer presentation, New Release,https://wclc2019.iaslc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ECLS-Scottish-news-release_SSfs-8-16bbedits.pdf

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