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Int J Cancer. 2001 Feb 1;91(3):359-65.

Genetic alterations in bronchial mucosa and plasma DNA from individuals at high risk of lung cancer.

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Molecular Epidemiology Unit, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.


Evidence suggests that the majority of lung cancer patients have tumour-derived genetic alterations in circulating plasma DNA, and that this may be developed as a diagnostic tool. To this end, we have studied 60 individuals attending bronchoscopy clinic, with symptoms suspicious of lung cancer, for genetic alterations in bronchial mucosa biopsy (n = 47) and plasma (n = 40) DNA. Thirteen of 47 individuals from whom biopsies were taken displayed allelic loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in biopsy DNA for at least 1 of 4 markers. All 13 of these individuals had neoplastic tumour cells in their biopsies and were subsequently diagnosed with cancer. Thirteen of 40 individuals from whom plasma was taken displayed a plasma DNA LOH, and 12 of these 13 individuals were subsequently diagnosed with cancer. LOH in plasma was generally representative of LOH in the corresponding biopsy. In terms of sensitivity, using just 4 markers, biopsy LOH and plasma LOH were found in 13 of 44 (30%) and 12 of 29 (41%), respectively, of those patients subsequently diagnosed with cancer. Two patients were positive for LOH in plasma samples that pre-dated a diagnosis of cancer by several months. These data suggest that assay of genetic alterations in circulating plasma DNA may be developed as a useful addition to conventional techniques for the diagnosis of lung cancer.

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