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Blood test could pave way for new treatment for aggressive lung cancer

A new blood test could help doctors predict which small-cell lung cancers (SCLCs) will respond to treatment.

Scientists found genetic fault patterns in circulating tumour cells that correlated with the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

The discovery paves the way to a "liquid biopsy" for lung cancer patients providing a snapshot of the disease from a blood sample.

Lung cancer biopsy tissue samples are often difficult to obtain because the tumours are so inaccessible.

Lead researcher Professor Caroline Dive, from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: "Our study reveals how blood samples could be used to anticipate how lung cancer patients may respond to treatments.

"Unfortunately, we have very few treatment options for patients with SCLC, and none at all for those whose cancer is resistant to chemotherapy.

"By identifying differences in the patterns of genetic faults between patients, we now have a starting point to begin to understand more about how drug resistance develops in patients with this aggressive form of lung cancer."

Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said: "Lung cancer causes more than one in five of all cancer deaths in the UK and it's vital that we find effective new treatments to fight the disease and save more lives.

"These liquid biopsies are an incredibly exciting area of research. Studies like this help build a bigger picture of the disease, pointing the way to developing new treatments that are urgently needed for people with lung cancer."

The research is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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