Physicians at El Camino Hospital, US, have initiated a clinical trial to evaluate a new tool for the early diagnosis of lung cancer.

The trial will combine Respiragene, a new genetically based test that detects smokers who are at a high risk of lung cancer, and low-dose CT scans to identify patients with lung cancer.

The trial will evaluate 200 smokers and ex-smokers of ages 50 years or above who have smoked the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes a day for at least 20 years and who do not have symptoms of lung cancer.

The participants will be first evaluated using the Respiragene test followed by low dose CT-scan. If lung nodules are found the patients will be followed up for a period of three years with appropriate scans and treatment.

Principal investigator of the study Dr Elwyn Cabebe said most patients with lung cancer are diagnosed too late for effective treatment and so there is no reliable, universally accepted screening test for the disease.

“The study will look at whether this test can be used to reliably identify smokers and former smokers at the highest risk of lung cancer and define who would benefit most from follow-up with low dose CT scanning,” Cabebe said.