Researchers in Spain have identified a new genetic signature which it is hoped will provide doctors with better information on the risks of relapse in patients with early stage lung cancer.
The research may also open up new avenues for immunotherapy for lung cancer, with the scientists hopeful that new treatment strategies will be developed based on their ability to trace the stages of the cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer often doesn’t get diagnosed until it has spread throughout the entire body, and even when it does, the patients that undergo surgical removal of the tumour still have a discouraging 30 per cent rate of relapse. This new work, which has been presented at the third European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, offers hope for earlier detection in the future, and the possibility of new treatments.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Hospital Clinico San Carlos, Madrid, have found a 50-gene predictor that could give doctors an indication of which patients are at the greatest risk of relapsing. They observed 84 patients with stage I and II non-small cell lung cancer who had undergone surgery, finding that gene signature accurately predicted which patients were at low risk of relapse.
Dr Florentino Hernando, presenting the results at the meeting in Geneva, saying: "All of these genes overexpressed in the low-risk group are highly related to B lymphocyte activity.
"So, the B cell-mediated immune response seems to have a very important role."
The researchers identified a genetic profile that low-risk patients had which suggested that they had a better immune response to the tumour. That means that treatments that could interfere with this response, such as post-surgical chemo, should be reconsidered for this low-risk group.
Professor David Carbone from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, said: "This is a potentially extremely important classifier.
"It is interesting that the majority of the genes in the classifier are either immune-derived or immunomodulatory, suggesting a potential molecular basis for this observation. It would be interesting to compare the results of this classifier to simple quantitation of lymphocytic infiltration into the resected tumours."