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Team explores fungal infection quandary in lung cancer screenings

Apr. 18, 2019, 10:13 AM

Serving a region that lies within the tobacco belt, clinicians at Vanderbilt Health face challenges distinguishing lung cancer from histoplasmosis, a fungal infection that creates cancer-mimicking lesions in the lungs.

Their work, published October 2018 in Emerging Infectious Diseases, revealed that histoplasmosis is prevalent beyond previously identified regions of the United States and led to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updating its maps in December.

A collaboration from across Vanderbilt, and with contributions from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, their model expanded likely histoplasmosis exposure areas beyond the Ohio and lower Mississippi River basins to include the upper Missouri River basin.

Other research by the team, in partnership with MiraVista and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, published in February in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, indicates that a new blood test for histoplasmosis antibodies shows promise as a diagnostic tool for distinguishing cancer tumors from benign nodules caused by the fungal infection. Their findings can help cancer clinicians better determine when biopsy surgeries are necessary in diagnosing lung cancer.

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