The overarching goal of the Academic Industrial Partnership grant is to develop a population risk-stratification
tool that will allow efficacious and cost-effective lung cancer screening. Lung cancer represents an ideal
malignancy for screening because of its prevalence, identifiable risk groups (current/former smokers) and
ability to surgically cure the disease if diagnosed early. However, there are no robust screening techniques
with options such as low-dose CT (LDCT) scans fraught with cost and harm from large numbers of false
positives. In order to make lung cancer screening viable, it is imperative to develop a test to pre-screen for
LDCT by identifying the subset of patients who are likely to harbor lung cancers and would benefit from LDCT.
The test must be sensitive to early disease (e.g. Stage I), low-cost, and able to be carried out in a primary care
setting. The goal of this project is to develop such a test. One attractive approach is to exploit field
carcinogenesis, the concept that the same genetic/environmental milieu that results in a lesion in one area of
the lung will impact upon the entire aero digestive mucosa. The buccal (cheek) mucosa is a “molecular mirror”
of lung carcinogenesis, although current techniques are inadequate to translate this phenomenon into a
minimally intrusive screening test. The preliminary data show that the alteration of nanoscale architecture in
buccal cells is exquisitely sensitive to field carcinogenesis and hence may serve as a robust biomarker for lung
cancer. These nano-architectural changes can be detected in a practical and highly accurate fashion via a
novel biophotonics technology, partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy (“nanocytology”). In this study,
PWS technology will be refined and a prediction rule developed based on the PWS-detectable nanoscale
alterations that is optimized for early stage, curable lung cancer. The goal of the proposed project is to finalize
the remaining technology development aspects to translate nanocytology into a practical, accurate, and low-
cost test, bring it to the point where it is viable for population screening, and conduct a pre-definitive clinical
validation. The team envision that upon completion of this project, nanocytology will be ready for a definitive
clinical trial leading to a launch in clinical practice. This novel paradigm could transform the clinical practice of
lung cancer screening and thereby mitigate the large toll of this malignancy in Americans.
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