Finding cancerous cells and tumors is relatively easy. Knowing how best to treat them is very difficult. The aim is to match aggressive treatment to aggressive cancers while taking things more steadily for the less aggressive cancers. A discovery by UCSF researchers may well prove to be a significant contribution to a reduced mortality rate for lung cancer sufferers in the first stages of the disease.
The new research study is the largest of its kind and the results are published in the medical journal ‘The lancet.’ The aims were to identify the DNA of different forms of cancer and the patients were Northern California Kaiser hospitals, 433 in total, as well as over a thousand from China.
Gene Identification for Predicting Lung Cancer Survival
There is a 14-gene identification procedure that is very accurate in predicting the 5-year survival chances of lung cancer patients. It was developed by a Mountain View Pinpoint Genomics, a bio-tech company, and manufactured at Kaiser and applied to both groups of patients in the study. By identifying those with aggressive cancerous molecules, the medics and sufferers can choose chemotherapy to follow their surgery, thereby fighting fire with fire and helping with one of the toughest decisions to face the newly diagnosed.
This is decision faced by around 50,000 patients each year in America alone and many more patients each year worldwide. Lung cancer is the disease with the worst mortality rate of all cancers everywhere. Some 160,000 sufferers die in this country alone, many more than from breast, colon and prostate cancers added together. Early diagnosis of lung cancer is only successful in about 1 in 3 patients and between 4 and 5 patients do not survive beyond the 5 years after diagnosis.
Therapy and Mortality Risk
The new test is an important addition to scans, surgery and clinical observation, which are inadequate to determining the precise nature of the disease. It profiles the activity level of the fourteen genes in tissue samples and compares them to levels in the healthy lung. It then gives a good indication of the mortality risks for each patient and guidance to the therapy decisions.
The test gained all necessary approvals in 2011 and is commercially available. However the company has been awaiting research results before promoting it further. It is to be hoped Medicare and health insurance will bring with range of most people, as it has with other molecular-gene tests. More information about the Pinpoint test is needed to show whether extra aggressive treatment post lung cancer surgery will actually reduce mortality rates in these patients.
Further studies are also needed to match the best chemotherapy to the nature of the cancer. Although the studies were financed by Pinpoint and private donation to UCSF, the scientists were keen to stress that the research was conducted under proper guidelines and used blind conditions to avoid bias. The Lung Cancer Foundation in San Carlos welcomed the research as “fabulous news” and look forward to more targeted therapies for individual patients.