Early detection of lung cancer is vital for increasing a patient’s survival rate and to prescribe the best form of treatment. Now New York researchers have developed an early detection method involving a simple cheek swab. Called partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, this new technique involves shining diffuse light on cells from the swab. The test is able to distinguish individuals with or without lung cancer, even if the patient has been a lifelong smoker or suffers from other smoking related illnesses.
“This study is important because it provides the proof of concept that a minimally intrusive, risk-stratification technique may allow us to tailor screening for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in Americans,” said Dr. Hemant Roy of NorthShore University HealthSystems and the University of Chicago. “This represents a major step forward in translating biomedical optics breakthroughs for personalized screening for lung cancer.”
Continual trials using the PWS light technique have helped researchers learn more about cell changes when cancer emerges somewhere in the body. When cancer is present within the body, healthy molecules in the nucleus appear to change, even when these cells are far from the actual tumor. This ability to affect cells far away from the source is called the “field effect” or “field of injury” effect and thus a simple cheek swab will reveal changes triggered by cancer cells in a patients lung.