Stanford researchers make lung cancer finging that could vastly improve treatment and outcome

STANFORD, Calif. - Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center have uncovered a group of genes that could distinguish between different forms of lung cancer. This finding may help doctors predict individual treatment strategies and may someday lead to better lung cancer drugs.

"What this means is that we can distinguish between different types of lung cancers, which was not possible before, and that those differences have clinical consequences," said David Botstein, MD, professor of genetics and senior author on the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 13.

Doctors currently categorize lung tumors into one of four types: small cell, squamous cell, large cell and adenocarcinoma. When doctors diagnose a small-cell tumor, they can provide a fairly accurate prognosis. But other tumor types, particularly adenocarcinomas, respond very differently to standard treatment.

"Lung adenocarcinomas may appear morphologically similar, however, the patients differ in survival and possibly drug sensitivity," said Mitchell Garber, a post-doctoral student and first author on the paper. "At present, the pathologist cannot determine patient survival for those diagnosed with adenocarcinoma."

Garber thought these differences may arise from gene variations within the tumor. If that's the case, doctors would have an additional tool for distinguishing how tumors will grow, helping to determine the best course of treatment for each patient. "The short-term goal is to know the fingerprint of a tumor that has a poor prognosis," Garber said. "That will give the clinician an incentive to look a little harder within this patient for additional tumors."

To find out whether genetic differences exist between lung tumors, Garber obtained RNA from 67 lung tumor samples and six normal lung samples. RNA is produced by active genes and can be used to identify which genes are being expressed in a given sample. He t

Contact: Sheila Foster
Stanford University Medical Center

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