Exact Sciences Corp and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have formed a partnership to jointly develop and commercialize blood-based screening and diagnostic tests for the early detection of lung cancer, according to an ESC news announcement.

This collaboration seeks to build upon MD Anderson’s extensive research into predictive biomarkers for lung cancer and Exact Sciences’ successful development and commercialization of Cologuard, the only FDA-approved, noninvasive stool-based DNA colon cancer screening test. The two groups plan to develop a groundbreaking new blood test that targets biomarkers associated with lung cancer.

Specifically, the goal is to develop a blood-based lung cancer screening test to determine the need for low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). This test would offer the opportunity to screen nearly 11 million Americans considered high-risk smokers and former smokers. The partnership is also aimed at developing a diagnostic test to determine the malignant status of nodules found through LDCT screening. This test would be valuable to nearly four million Americans diagnosed with lung nodules each year.

“Our common vision is to help win the war on cancer through early detection. Taking on lung cancer offers an opportunity to build on the success of Cologuard,” said Exact Sciences’ Chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy. “A simple blood test to complement a LDCT scan could significantly improve early-stage lung cancer detection. Our experience working with regulators and insurers coupled with MD Anderson’s world-class research and development capabilities are an ideal match to make a meaningful difference in the war on cancer.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that lung cancer will be diagnosed in 221,200 Americans and cause 158,040 deaths in the United States this year. Currently, more than half of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, after symptoms appear, when the five-year survival rate is in the low single digits. If detected at an early stage, lung cancer’s five-year survival rate can be as high as 80%.

“Lung cancer is, and will continue to be, America’s leading cancer killer unless we identify new approaches to diagnose it early, at its most treatable stages,” said Sam Hanash, MD, PhD, director of MD Anderson’s Red and Charline McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer.  “Our collaboration with Exact Sciences provides a great opportunity to create tests that could shift the lung cancer detection paradigm for the benefit of patients.”