Eventually, a drop of blood from a smoker or former smoker could "predict lung and head and neck cancer risk as well as optimal treatment, possibly within a decade," says Mao. "To do a good biomarkers study, you must have a very strong clinical base, and that is the advantage we have at M. D. Anderson."
Proteins and genes involved in breast cancer
Breast cancer researchers at M. D. Anderson are using both proteins and genes to help determine which therapy will work best in patients before they even begin any treatment.
In one landmark study, researchers demonstrated that they might be able to predict which women with early stage breast cancer could be cured by using a particular chemotherapy treatment before surgery.
The study, led by Lajos Pusztai, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of Breast Medical Oncology, is one of the first to show that a genetic profile of a breast cancer tumor can help direct therapy.
This potentially represents a big step forward toward "personalized medicine," says Pusztai. "If these results continue to hold up in larger validation studies, they can fundamentally change the way that chemotherapy is selected for patients."
Using breast cancer cells taken from 24 early stage breast cancers, Pusztai and his colleagues discovered 74 genes associated with a cure when a common chemotherapy regimen known as Paclitaxel/FAC was used. From those genes, they created markers to predict the outcome in 21 newly diagnosed patients and found the test was 75 percent accurate in forecasting which women would respond to FAC. Now the investigators are testing the gene screen in a larger randomized study at M. D. Anderson. If this study validates the utility of the gene screen, a predictive test may be available for widespread use in two to three years, Pusztai says.
He adds that he expects the test to be over 80 percent accurate.