Scientists report they may be able to detect the difference between benign and malignant lung lesions via a novel test that assesses nasal epithelial gene expression in current and former smokers.

Bronchial and nasal epithelial gene expression are similarly altered by cigarette smoke exposure; therefore, the researchers aimed to determine if cancer-associated gene expression could potentially be detected in the nasal epithelium of 505 current and former smokers who underwent diagnostic testing for pulmonary lesions suspicious for lung cancer.

The results, published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that the activity of a set of 535 genes was altered in the nasal passages of smokers who subsequently received lung cancer diagnoses compared with those who had benign lung disease.