According to new research recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists have created a gene-profiling test that could one day help determine if certain individuals, in the early stages of lung cancer, are more likely to experience a relapse. According to researchers, the test could also help determine who would get the most out of chemotherapy.
This comes on the heels of previous tumor-profiling tests that have been created specifically for evaluating breast cancer patients. There are two of these tests that currently exist and are already being used on a regular basis. The benefit of these tests is that they can help women with breast cancer avoid undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy, which is costly and painful, to say the least.
While the breast cancer tumor tests have been in place for some time now, the new lung cancer test is going to have to see a lot more testing before it can be implemented, but it is being called “breakthrough research,” which is founded upon a lot of previous research into establishing personalized cancer treatments.
According to Dr. Len Lichenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, the test’s accuracy, which is at about 80% thus far, is “Better than what we have, but it’s not as good as we would like,” which points to the need for further evaluation and tweaking of the test — but it does provide new hope for doctors and their patients who suffer from the horrible illness.
The key factor to note in the development of such tests is that knowledge about how genes are contributing to certain cancers can help lead to tests such as this one, which will help doctors determine who needs chemotherapy and who won’t benefit from it.
With this new tumor-profiling test for lung cancer, researchers at Duke University looked at 198 tumor samples and analyzed 133 genes. They looked at the activity of each gene and how it correlated to the level of aggressiveness in lung cancer. The test allows for individual testing, which provides unique results for each person. This individualized result can help predict a person’s chances of survival.
With the test, patients were evaluating as having either a low or a high risk of lung cancer occurrence, which was based on the test. The researchers took these results and compared them to what actually occurred in each patient.
According to the researchers, the test proved to be 93% accurate for half of the patients whose tumor samples came from the study at Duke and it was 75% accurate for the remaining participants. This is quite the improvement, as previous tests came in at about a 60% accuracy reading.
Since this new test is not ready for use yet by the general public, a further evaluation is already being established. A larger study is going to start in January of this year, which will involve 1,200 lung cancer patients. The goal will be to further evaluate the test, where patients will either receive chemotherapy or not, after their tumor is removed, based on their test score.
The researchers will then observe each participant for a few years in order to see how they fare. The goal of this upcoming study is to determine if this new test actually works — and if it could be a huge breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer.
While this test is not up and running yet, it does provide hope for patients with lung cancer. By being able to determine whether or not individuals will benefit from chemotherapy, this test could help save many individuals a lot of additional pain and suffering. You see, chemotherapy, while being a very beneficial treatment, comes with serious risks and side effects, such liver and heart damage, bone depletion, and, in some cases, it can even be fatal.
We’ll keep you posted on any new findings over the lung cancer gene-profiling test as they come to light.