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Using machine learning to detect lung cancer DNA in blood

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A large team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions across the U.S. has found that it might be possible to use machine learning to detect early-stage lung cancer in human patients. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their work, which involved testing machine learning systems and their ability to find circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood samples.

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest of the cancers, and like many others, the earlier it is found, the better chance of survival a patient has. Unfortunately, the only way to detect it currently is via CT scans, which are not only costly, but have high false positive rates. For that reason, have been looking into the possibility of developing a that can detect in its early stages. Such blood tests would involve scanning samples of blood for bits of ctDNA—a daunting prospect for human lab technicians. For that reason, the researchers with this new effort looked to machine learning—prior studies have shown it to be useful in identifying early stage breast and other cancers.

In their work, the researchers trained a model on data typically associated with a type of lung cancer known as non-small-cell lung cancer. Once trained, the model was programmed to provide an estimate of lung cancer in a given patient.

During testing, the system found 63 percent of tumors for stage 1 lung cancer patients—not as good as CT scans, but possibly good enough to serve as an initial screen for people who are considered to be at high risk of developing lung cancer. The researchers note that currently, many such patients are not being screened at all. If a patient received a positive result, they would then be

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Iron Tests: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

What do the results mean?

If one or more iron test results show your iron levels are too low, it may mean you have:

  • Iron deficiency anemia, a common type of anemia. Anemia is a disorder in which your body doesn’t make enough red blood cells.
  • Another type of anemia
  • Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that causes the body to make fewer than normal healthy red blood cells

If one or more iron test results show your iron levels are too high, it may mean you have:

Most conditions that cause too little or too much iron can be successfully treated with iron supplements, diet, medicines, and/or other therapies.

If your iron test results are not normal, it does not necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Some medicines, including birth control pills and estrogen treatments, can affect iron levels. Iron levels may also be lower for women during their menstrual cycles.

If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.

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