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February 01, 2016

"We're examining whether lung cancer may affect gene expression in white blood cells," continues Professor Skorpen. "A tumour secretes various signalling compounds, which are transported in the blood. Perhaps some of these transmitters alter the gene expression in the white blood cells."

If the researchers can find a gene expression signature in white blood cells that is specific to lung cancer, they may detect a patient's lung cancer at an earlier stage.This would parallel other cancers, such as breast cancer, in which the expression of multiple genes in blood cells is altered. Identifying these changes can provide an early indication of the disease.

Samples from Biobank Norway

To find out whether gene expression signatures can be identified in blood, the researchers have been using blood samples stored at the Central Norway lung cancer biobank from lung cancer patients, and from healthy control samples from Nord-Tr??ndelag's HUNT biobank.

The researchers isolated total RNA from the blood of 100 lung cancer patients and compared it to samples from 100 cancer-free individuals. The results are still being analysed.

"If we are able to find blood markers that indicate lung cancer, we will need to repeat the study on larger groups of patients and healthy control subjects," explains Professor Skorpen. "These analyses are painstaking and complicated, and it is necessary to replicate the findings with a larger material sample. This will eventually be possible as the lung cancer biobank expands."