Washington, May 20 : A genetic test to predict a patient's risk of lung cancer recurrence could soon become a medical reality, thanks to researchers at Columbia University.
The team has taken a major step forward in developing a reliable genetic test to predict if cancer would recur in patients whose non-small cell lung cancer was caught early and surgically removed.
For this, the researchers recently evaluated the ability of five high-risk genetic profiles, or signatures, for guiding lung cancer treatment.
"Non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 80 percent of all lung cancers, has a high rate of recurrence even when treated earlyIf we knew specifically in which patients the cancer was likely to come back, we could recommend more aggressive therapy to those patients," said lead researcher William Bulman, M.D.
He indicated that genetic signatures for breast cancer are already commercially available and are used by physicians to guide treatment recommendations.
The researchers examined five survival gene signatures in 21 patients, who had squamous or adenocarinoma tumors and were followed for up to two years after their surgery.
Varying with the type of tumor, the accuracy of the tested signatures ranged from 40 to 80 percent and. For example, a 42-gene signature was 82 percent accurate in predicting survival with lung adenocarcinoma, but only 70 percent accurate in predicting survival with squamous cell carcinoma.
"Lung cancer is a heterogeneous disease, and information captured in these tests helps to distinguish tumors in terms of clinical outcomes. Our findings not only indicate that genetic signatures have clinical utility in personalizing the treatment of lung cancer, but also that it may be necessary to use different gene-based risk predictors with different tumor subtypes," explained Dr. Bulman.
He also pointed out that this research might partly help in understanding the biological basis for why some early stage lung cancers progress and metastasize and why some do not.
Further, he added that the team is planning to test these genetic signatures in new group of patients in order to target patients at high risk for recurrence.
The findings will be presented at the American Thoracic Society's 2008 International Conference in Toronto.