Background: Despite the promising results of the National Lung Screening Trial in reducing lung cancer mortality among high risk smokers, several challenges remain to be addressed. These include the high false positive rates and the large number of smokers screened in order to prevent one lung cancer death. In addition, host genetic susceptibility has not been integrated into selection of who should be screened. These challenges highlight the need to develop robust ways to identify susceptible smokers for appropriate screening.
Methods: We used the cytokinesis block micronucleus (CBMN) assay to assess smoking induced genetic instability among NLST participants. Blood cultures were prepared at time of entry into the screening study and DNA damage was recorded as the frequency of binucleated nucleoplasmic bridges and micronuclei. Low dose CT (LDCT) and chest X-ray (CXR) image findings were available upon unblinding of the NLST study and imaging data were merged with blood marker data for statistical analysis.
Results: A total of 641 participants were included in this study. The frequency of the CBMN endpoints at time of entry into the study was significantly higher among study participants who had a positive finding during the 3-year screening or reported lung cancer at the end of the follow-up period as compared to participants who were negative. Growth curve models were used to compare trajectories of change in CBMN endpoints between entry into the study and end-of-screening period. A statistically significant increase was predicted for CBMN endpoints among the study participants who were positive versus those who remained negative at the end-of-screening period (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Genetic instability biomarkers have the potential of facilitating the identification of genetically susceptible high-risk smokers who would benefit from targeted lung screening programs.
Keywords: Lung cancer; genetic susceptibility; lung screening; micronucleus assay.