Introduction: The recent findings of the National Lung Screening Trial showed 24.2% of individuals at high risk for lung cancer having one or more indeterminate nodules detected by low-dose computed tomography-based screening, 96.4% of which were eventually confirmed as false positives. These positive scans necessitate additional diagnostic procedures to establish a definitive diagnosis that adds cost and risk to the paradigm. A plasma test able to assign benign versus malignant pathology in high-risk patients would be an invaluable tool to complement low-dose computed tomography-based screening and promote its rapid implementation.
Methods: We evaluated 17 biomarkers, previously shown to have value in detecting lung cancer, against a discovery cohort, comprising benign (n = 67) cases and lung cancer (n = 69) cases. A Random Forest method based analysis was used to identify the optimal biomarker panel for assigning disease status, which was then validated against a cohort from the Mayo Clinic, comprising patients with benign (n = 61) or malignant (n = 20) indeterminate lung nodules.
Results: Our discovery efforts produced a seven-analyte plasma biomarker panel consisting of interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-10, IL-1ra, sIL-2Rα, stromal cell-derived factor-1α+β, tumor necrosis factor α, and macrophage inflammatory protein 1 α. The sensitivity and specificity of our panel in our validation cohort is 95.0% and 23.3%, respectively. The validated negative predictive value of our panel was 93.8%.
Conclusion: We developed a seven-analyte plasma biomarker panel able to identify benign nodules, otherwise deemed indeterminate, with a high degree of accuracy. This panel may have clinical utility in risk-stratifying screen-detected lung nodules, decrease unnecessary follow-up imaging or invasive procedures, and potentially avoid unnecessary morbidity, mortality, and health care costs.