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A study recently published in the journal Chest indicates that a blood test to measure a gene necessary for cell growth in non-small cell lung (NSCLC) cancer is a reliable marker for determining if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is a malignancy that arises from the tissues of the lung. In most cases, NSCLC is not curable, but may be treatable with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Treatment depends on the extent of the disease and whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. CT scans are commonly relied upon for diagnosing NSCLC and making treatment decisions. In NSCLC, a gene known as vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) regulates tumor growth.

In this recent study, blood samples were taken from 116 patients diagnosed with NSCLC. All patients also had a CT scan of the chest. Researchers compared the levels of VEGF-C found in the blood with the findings of the CT scans to evaluate if higher levels of VEGF-C correlated with lymph nodes seen on CT scan. Results of the study indicated that serum VEGF-C correlated visually with the CT scans and was highly sensitive and specific for lymph node metastasis.

Researchers concluded that a blood test to measure for VEGF-C is a reliable marker for metastasis in NSCLC, and when combined with CT scan, this blood test provides for accurate lymph node staging in NSCLC.

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Reference: Tamura M, Oda M, Tsunezuka, Y, et al. Chest CT and Serum Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-C Level to Diagnose Lymph Node Metastasis in Patients with Primary Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Chest. 2004; 126: 342-346.

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