The test aims to improve on current methods, which offers patients surgery and radiation for early-stage lung cancer primarily because it offers a better success rate than chemotherapy, as this method is harder to predict.
The test is able to scan genes in such a way that lets scientists identify aggressive cancers particularly those that are most likely to return.
The research involved looking at patients specifically with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a form of lung cancer that comprises over 75 per cent of all lung cancers.
According to Datamonitor Healthcare, in 2006, more than 338,000 cases of the disease are expected to be diagnosed in the seven major pharmaceutical markets in 2006.
Despite two decades of extensive R&D and chemotherapy use, the overall survival of NSCLC patients remains below 12 months.
The team, from the Duke University Medical Center, US, looked at the genetic profile of NSCLC tumours. They used the genome test to look at 129 patients, whose disease statuses were followed over time.
Results proved the test predicted the risk of recurrence to a high degree of accuracy.
The team are hopeful this test could eventually be used in a clinical setting in which people with very early-stage cancer who show a higher likelihood of recurrence could be given chemotherapy as well as surgery.
Anil Potti, who led the research, commented that this treatment would provide more extensive treatment, which could potentially save thousands of lives every year.
The test is about to enter clinical trials in the US and Canada with fifty medical centres becoming involved along with 12,000 cancer patients. The results of the trial are expected in 2008.
Tumours in the lungs are divided into two types: non-small lung cancer (including large cell lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma) and small cell lung cancer.
Non-small lung cancer is by far the most common type of lung cancer. It spreads slowly and surfaces as one of three varieties: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
These types tend to remain isolated in the lungs, meaning lung metastases are less common among them. Conversely, small cell lung cancer is much more aggressive than non-small lung cancer and rapid formation of lung metastases in other organs in the body is likely. Both types are treatable if caught early, but neither is curable.
The study will appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.