“Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered that lung cancers can lie dormant for over 20 years before suddenly turning into an aggressive form of the disease, according to a study published in Science today.
“The team studied lung cancers from seven patients – including smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers. They found that after the first genetic mistakes that cause the cancer, it can exist undetected for many years until new, additional, faults trigger rapid growth of the disease.
“During this expansion there is a surge of different genetic faults appearing in separate areas of the tumour. Each distinct section evolves down different paths – meaning that every part of the tumour is genetically unique.
“This research – jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and the Rosetrees Trust – highlights the need for better ways to detect the disease earlier. Two-thirds of patients are diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease when treatments are less likely to be successful.
“By revealing that lung cancers can lie dormant for many years the researchers hope this study will help improve early detection of the disease.”