Researchers have developed a new approach to early diagnosis of lung cancer: a urine test that can detect the presence of proteins linked to the disease. This kind of noninvasive test could reduce the number of false positives and help detect more tumors in the early stages of the disease.
They created nanoparticles coated with peptides that are targeted by cancer-linked proteases. The particles accumulate at tumor sites, where the peptides are cleaved, releasing biomarkers that can then be detected in a urine sample. They analyzed a database of cancer-related genes and identified proteases that are abundant in lung cancer; they then created a panel of 14 peptide-coated nanoparticles that could interact with these enzymes.
The researchers also found that the sensors can distinguish between early-stage cancer and noncancerous inflammation of the lungs. Lung inflammation, common in people who smoke, is one of the reasons that CT scans produce so many false positives.
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