First national experiment and medical revolution in Nice to detect lung cancer

A blood test capable of detecting cells “harbingers” cancer in the months or even years to come. At the origin of this medical revolution, which in 2014 was relayed by the international press, a Niçois, Paul Hofman.

Professor of medicine at the University Hospital of Nice, director of research at Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research, editor’s note), he had just developed a test for detecting tumor cells in the blood of people. at risk of developing lung cancer.

Alongside Professor Charles-Hugo Marquette, head of the pulmonology and thoracic oncology department at the University Hospital of Nice, he then pleaded for targeted screening for this disease, most often discovered too late, when it is no longer operable.

A plea, fueled by this major discovery, but which failed to convince the High Authority for Health (HAS). Until February 2022. “The relevance of carrying out this type of action has finally been recognized by the HAS, rejoices Professor Hofman. It has thus decided to encourage projects aimed at evaluating the impact of lung cancer screening; and the Department of Alpes-Maritimes, which largely supported our research, was chosen for an experiment, before the device was deployed in the Paca Region and then throughout the territory.”

2,600 attendees

Named Da Capo (in reference to the Italian musical term which means “from the beginning”), the study will combine three approaches: clinical, biological and artificial intelligence, embodied by Pr Marquette, Pr Hofman and Stéphanie Lopez.

The 2,600 patients who will be included in the device will benefit from a lung CT scan and a blood test (liquid biopsy intended to look for markers of the presence of cancer), and the results will feed an algorithm which, it is hoped , will ultimately improve diagnosis and prognosis. “The initial scan can be performed in all the imaging centers participating in the project”says Professor Marquette.

Towards the green light from the ethics committee

The launch of the project now only awaits the green light from the ethics committee, which should be given quickly. The stakes are indeed major, while lung cancer is a real scourge. “It is now the leading cause of cancer death in the Alpes-Maritimes, warn Professors Marquette and Hofman. And Nice has the second largest active file of patients behind Paris.”

Although significant therapeutic progress has been made, thanks to targeted therapies and immunotherapy, medicine remains powerless to cure patients suffering from very advanced forms of the disease. “Cure can only be achieved if cancer is detected at an early stage and treated surgically.”

And this is the whole point of screening actions, targeting the populations most at risk, also targeted by Da Capo: “Smokers and ex-smokers aged 50 to 80, who have consumed at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years.”

The project was presented in the presence of deputy Éric Ciotti who did not conceal “his admiration and his gratitude towards the teams mobilized” and “is committed to continuing to support them”.

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