Background: Molecular analysis of sputum provides a promising approach for lung cancer diagnosis, yet is limited by the difficulty in collecting the specimens from individuals who can't spontaneously expectorate sputum. Lung Flute is a small self-powered audio device that can induce sputum by generating sound waves and vibrating in the airways of the lungs. Here we propose to evaluate the usefulness of Lung Flute for sputum sampling to assist diagnosis of lung cancer.
Methods: Forty-three stage I lung cancer patients and 47 cancer-free individuals who couldn't spontaneously cough sputum were instructed to use Lung Flute for sputum sampling. Expressions of two microRNAs, miRs-31 and 210, were determined in the specimens by qRT-PCR. The results were compared with sputum cytology.
Results: Sputum was easily collected from 39 of 43 (90.7%) lung cancer patients and 42 of 47 (89.4%) controls with volume ranges from 1 to 5 ml (median, 2.6 ml). The specimens had less than 4% oral squamous cells, indicating that sputum was obtained from low respiratory tract. Expressions of miRs-31 and 210 in sputum were considerably higher in cancer patients than cancer-free individuals (8.990 vs. 4.514; 0.6847 vs. 0.3317; all P <0.001). Combined use of the two miRNAs produced a significantly higher sensitivity (61.5% vs. 35.9%, P = 0.002) and a slightly lower specificity (90.5% vs. 95.2%, p = 0.03) compared with cytology for lung cancer diagnosis.
Conclusion: Lung Flute could potentially be useful in convenient and efficient collection of sputum for molecular diagnosis of lung cancer.