New device uses simple blood test to detect early-stage lung cancer

New device uses simple blood test to detect early-stage lung cancer

University of Queensland researchers have designed a device that detects lung cancer in its early stages using a simple blood test.

Quan Zhou holds the device his lab is using to explore faster and more accurate diagnostic methods. Image: University of Queensland.

Dr Richard Lobb and Quan Zhou, from the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said the diagnostic device could help patients start treatment and get ahead of the disease before it spreads.

“Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Australia, claiming around 9000 lives each year,” Dr Lobb said.

“Despite the prevalence of the disease, the initial detection and screening process for the disease can be long and costly, involving scans, imaging tests and biopsy procedures.

“The technology we developed is non-invasive and we hope to detect very small lung cancer nodules, catching the disease in its early stages.”

The nanodevice analyzes a patient’s blood sample, looking for a specific biomarker; this biomarker is sugars that coat small messenger particles known as extracellular vesicles (EVs).

“These sugar molecules, or glycans, serve as excellent biomarkers because the sugar code in the cancer cell is different from the normal cell,” Dr. Lobb said.

“A drop of blood may be enough to alert clinicians to the presence of small lung cancer nodules and allow intervention when the disease is in its early stages,” Dr. Lobb said.

In a clinical study involving 40 patients, the technology was found to be able to successfully distinguish patients with early-stage malignant lung nodules from patients with benign lung nodules.

“The results show the potential for EV glycans to be used to noninvasively diagnose other diseases. This device and a simple blood test could help clinicians step in before more intensive screening or treatments or drug regimens are needed.”

Quan Zhou, UQ Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

The nanodevice was designed in the laboratory of ARC Prize winner and AIBN senior group leader Professor Matt Trau, and AIBN academics Xueming Niu, Dr. Alain Wuethrich and Dr. Zhen Zhang contributed to the research.

The research paper was published in the journal Advanced Science.


Journal reference:

Zhou, S., and others. (2024). Glycan Profiling in Small Extracellular Vesicles with SERS Microfluidic Biosensor Identifies Early Malignant Progression in Lung Cancer. Advanced Science.