Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, making it a significant public health concern, and is often diagnosed at advanced stages when treatment options are limited.
According to GlobalData’s epidemiology forecast, the number of diagnosed incident cases of non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer is expected to increase from approximately 1,400,000 cases in 2022 to approximately 1,700,000 cases by 2029 at an annual growth rate of 3.06% in the 16 major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, urban China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea).
Given the expected increase in cases and the high mortality rates associated with lung cancer, identifying new and easily accessed diagnostic tests will be critical to tackling and ensuring equal access to early diagnosis.
A research article published this month in Science Advances by Qiang Zhong and colleagues discussed new technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US that could make lung cancer diagnosis as simple as inhaling small sensors and then taking a urine test.
The sensors, called point-of-care aerosolisable nanosensors with tumour-responsive oligonucleotide barcodes (PATROL), could be a game-changer for public health because they could tackle unequal access to lung cancer diagnosis.
Currently, low-dose computed tomography screenings are one of the tests used for the diagnosis of lung cancer, but due to the cost associated with this test, not everyone can access them.
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PATROL is a needle-free system that does not rely on complex imaging. PATROL’s tiny sensors release DNA markers when lung cancer-related enzymes are detected, which could result in the early detection of tumours.
The markers end up in the patient’s urine and a test can then reveal the results within 20 minutes.
If the results seen in mice translate to humans, PATROL could revolutionise how physicians approach lung health, making early detection easier to access and more effective for everyone.
PATROL also has the potential to identify lung lesions and infections.
Cutting-edge technology that enables early detection and ensures equitable access to diagnosis holds immense importance for public health.
The early detection of lung cancer allows for timely intervention and treatment, potentially saving lives and reducing the overall burden of the disease.
Additionally, the development of accessible diagnostic tools means that individuals from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds have the same chance for early diagnosis, reducing health disparities.
Early detection could also alleviate the economic burden associated with late-stage cancer treatment and make the healthcare system more efficient.