UCLA awarded $5M NCI grant to develop lung cancer screening method

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine and School of Dentistry have been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop liquid biopsy tools as a method for lung cancer screening.

The technology, known as electric field-induced release and measurement (EFIRM), tests patients’ blood and saliva to detect tumor mutations in near real-time. The technology can detect early-stage lung cancer with more than 90 percent accuracy—similar to that of traditional tissue biopsies, according to a prepared statement issued by UCLA.

EFIRM results, combined with traditional “detailed, quantitative image analyses” will be used to determine if a patient has tumors. At present, the traditional method of detecting lung cancer is to utilize a CT scan of the lungs to determine the presence of indeterminate lung nodules and monitor them overtime to assess if they develop into lung cancer.

“The National Cancer Institute’s award moves the needle forward for oncologists and care teams who are trying to save lives,” researcher Denise Aberle, MD, professor of radiology at UCLA, said in the statement. “In partnership with the UCLA School of Dentistry, we aim to establish a panel of 10 common biomarkers in lung cancer cases. Our ultimate goal is to use our new panel as a guide to identify at least 60 percent of lung cancer-associated biomarkers in those undetermined cases where the patient may or may not have cancer.”