BOSTON Using miniaturized chips that make snapshots of the activity of thousands of genes at once, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists have divided lung cancers into new categories based on their gene functions rather than the cells appearance under a microscope.
The researchers say its a first step toward a more useful classification of lung cancers that could yield sharper diagnoses and better treatments for the number one cancer killer.
Because the technique groups tumors by the off and on patterns of tens of thousands of genes in the cancer cells, the scientists could capture distinctive genetic signatures of each cancer type. One such signature identified a type of tumor that on average would kill the patient nearly 1 years earlier than a similar type with a different signature. Scientists also used the genetic signatures to distinguish between tumors originating in the lung and those that had spread from elsewhere in the body a distinction that can be impossible to make with current methods.
Weve been able for the first time to develop a new biological classification within adenocarcinomas, the most common lung cancers, that we think will be clinically relevant to treatment decisions, said Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pathology at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School. He is the senior author of the paper being posted online Nov. 13 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The report will appear in the journals Nov. 20 print edition.
The first author is Arindam Bhattacharjee, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Meyersons laboratory. Other authors include William G. Richards, PhD, Todd R. Golub, PhD, of Pediatric Oncology and also at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, and David J. Sugarbaker, MD, at Brigham and Womens Hospital and Dana-Farber.