Study identifies which patients can benefit from targeted lung cancer drug and why

.D., Ph.D., of Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Jeffrey Lee, of Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School (HMS).

"Until now, there has not been a great deal that medicine could do for most patients with non-small cell lung cancer," says Meyerson, who is also on the faculty of the Broad Institute and HMS. "This study is the first indication that a therapy targeted for a specific group of patients can have an impact on this disease. It demonstrates how the growing understanding of human biology and the Human Genome Project are converging to produce an immediate effect on cancer care."

In the study, Dana-Farber and Broad investigators led by Meyerson and Sellers scanned non-small cell lung tumors from 58 Japanese and 61 American patients for gene mutations. While just one of the American patients had a mutation in the gene for EGFR (which stands for "epidermal growth factor receptor"), 15 of the Japanese patients did. The investigators knew from previous research that Iressa, an EGFR kinase blocker that has had only sporadic success against NSCLC, shrinks such tumors more frequently in Japanese patients than in Americans.

Meanwhile, study co-authors Johnson and Janne found that tumor tissue from a woman with cancer that had spread to the lining around her lungs a condition called adenocarcinoma was very responsive to gefitinib when tested in a laboratory dish. When the adenocarcinoma's DNA was analyzed, it was found to have the same EGFR gene mutation that Meyerson and Sellers' group had found.

"We were struck that certain groups of NSCLC patients appear to be more likely to have EGFR mutations than others," Johnson remarks. "Mutations were more frequent in women, in Japanese patients, and in patients with adenocarcinoma. These are the exact same groups that are most likely to experience tumor shrinkage when treated with gefitinib. Because Iressa is an EGFR inhibitor, we reasoned that patients with EGFR mutations migh

Contact: Bill Schaller
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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