As per recent research published in Nature Medicine today (Monday), a sample of blood could tell how patients with small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) will respond to medicine. Researchers located at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester; screened tumor cells which had broken free from the main cancer, (known as circulating tumour cells) from thirty one patients who suffer from small-cell lung cancer.
After analysing the cells, the scientists realized that patterns of genetic faults measured prior to treatment directly correlated with patient outcomes and length of time required (pertaining to chemotherapy). Samples taken from biopsies (performing operations for tumor samples) are often too small and difficult to use in deciding which treatment options are best for cancer patients. However, blood samples can be taken in which treatments options can be determined.
The scientist also studied the genetic changes that took place in patients who at first responded positively to treatment, but then relapsed. These patients revealed a different pattern than those who did not respond positively to chemotherapy. This may suggest that the patients developed different mechanisms of drug resistance. Professor Caroline Dive, the lead researcher, said: “Our study reveals how blood samples could be used to anticipate how lung cancer patients may respond to treatments.
“Unfortunately, we have very few treatment options for patients with SCLC, and none at all for those whose cancer is resistant to chemotherapy.
“By identifying differences in the patterns of genetic faults between patients, we now have a starting point to begin to understand more about how drug resistance develops in patients with this aggressive form of lung cancer.”
Dr. Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s science information manager said: “Lung cancer causes more than one in five of all cancer deaths in the UK and it’s vital that we find effective new treatments to fight the disease and save more lives.”
“These liquid biopsies are an incredibly exciting area of research. Studies like this help build a bigger picture of the disease, pointing the way to developing new treatments that are urgently needed for people with lung cancer.”