Current approaches for the therapy of lung cancer, the majority of which being advanced cancers, have failed to impact on long term survival. The key to improvement lies in the combination of early diagnosis and the introduction of novel targeted therapies. In this article we review some of the innovative approaches, both imaging and molecular, that are currently under investigation for early detection. Because lung cancers may arise in the central or peripheral compartments of the lung, newer approaches must target tumours arising in both of these compartments. Specimens available for analysis include sputa and blood. Detection of genetic changes in peripheral blood is a promising avenue being explored by several groups. Molecular techniques discussed include gene mutations, detection of nuclear riboprotein, methylation related silencing of genes and malignancy associated changes. Newer imaging technologies include autofluorescence bronchoscopy, virtual bronchoscopy, optical coherent tomography and confocal microscopy. Although the impact of these new technologies on survival has not been determined, they offer a wide range of exciting new approaches. In time they may completely revamp the present highly conservative and unsuccessful approaches to early diagnosis.