Lung Cancer Study Findings Make Patients More Hopeful

Findings released from the latest cancer study undertaken at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, are promising new drug treatments with more successful results for patients with a certain type of lung cancer, reports the New York TImes.

Those affected by squamous cell lung cancer, caused by genetic abnormalities, should soon be able to receive treatment that pairs new drugs with their specific genetic abnormality.

“This study clearly shows that squamous cell carcinoma, like lung adenocarcinoma, is a cancer with diverse genomic causes, many of which are potentially susceptible to drug inhibition,” said Matthew Meyerson, co-leader of the project within TCGA, Broad senior associate member, and professor of pathology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. “This provides many new therapeutic opportunities for squamous cell carcinoma that would be suitable for clinical trials.”

The new study, published by Dr. Matthew Morrison in the publication Nature, took the lung cancer patient’s DNA into account to help establish tailor-made drug therapies that would be applied on a patient by patient basis rather than trying to treat squamous cell lung cancer with the same drug for all patients.

Researchers also discovered mutations in the HLA-A gene that hampered its function in tumors.

“To our knowledge, this is the first example of a tumor that has a genomic mechanism for evading an immune response,” he said. “This may be important in understanding the immune response to squamous cell carcinoma and also in envisioning how immune-regulatory therapy might be used for this disease.”

While much works needs to be done, the scientists see many opportunities.

“When we see lung cancer patients, it’s almost a double standard. If you have lung adenocarcinoma, we can offer you molecular testing, we can put you in trials, we can put you on some targeted drugs,” said Peter S. Hammerman, a co-chair of the paper’s writing and analysis committee, an associated researcher at the Broad, a member of the thoracic oncology program and instructor at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School. “If you have squamous cell lung cancer, you get the same treatment today you got 10 years ago, which is no more effective than it was 10 years ago. We’re just starting to see the first glimmers of hope in squamous cell lung cancer. This paper takes us to the next level in terms of identifying a number of potentially interesting targets to work on.”

“I think it’s the hope of all of us who worked on this study that we’ll catalyze a large new set of clinical trials in squamous cell carcinoma,” Meyerson said.

Paper cited

The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network. Comprehensive genomic characterization of squamous cell lung cancers. Nature DOI: 10:1038/nature11404

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