Better Cancer Screening Tests

Kimberly M. Hicks, Pharm.D., M.H.A., Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy

Screening tests are well-known and regularly used for several cancers, including breast cancer and cervical cancer; however, there are many other cancer sites that lack an effective early detection tool. That could soon be changing for lung cancer and prostate cancer.

Lung cancer remains the top cancer killer in the United States for both men and women; while prostate cancer is the second most likely form of cancer to develop in men (with skin cancer holding the number one spot).

Granted, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is used to detect prostate cancer. However, its high false-positive rate leads to many unnecessary biopsies and complications. A more effective alternative to the PSA would be welcomed.

A new screening tool for lung and prostate cancer is in the works. A recent study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, reports that a simple blood test can indicate the presence of early-stage lung and prostate cancers, as well as when these cancers have recurred in patients. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic relied on serum-free fatty acids and their metabolites in blood samples for this new screening tool.

After gathering data from the blood samples of lung and prostate cancer patients who were newly diagnosed, as well as lung cancer patients before and after surgery and a group of people without cancer, the researchers determined that serum-free fatty acid levels (and their metabolites) were much higher in cancer patients. These blood markers decreased quickly and dramatically after tumors were surgically removed.

The researchers are hopeful that this clear relationship can soon be used as a reliable way to detect lung and prostate cancers in their early stages. Such a blood test could also conceivably be used to reveal the successfulness of cancer surgery and whether a cancer has recurred.


What do you think

I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.


Liu J, Mazzone P, Cata J, et al. New blood biomarkers in cancer diagnosis and prognosis. Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. October 15, 2013;A4267.

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