University of Colorado investigators found that patients with non-small cell lung cancer who also had certain configurations of the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene responded better to a new drug which inhibits activity of this gene. About a quarter of patients who took the drug saw their tumors shrink by 20 percent or more, said Dr. Paul A. Bunn Jr., IASLC executive director and the James Dudley chair in cancer research at the University of Colorado. "Some had complete dissolution of the tumor so it couldn't be seen any more. That almost never happens with chemo," he noted. Participants had received multiple other treatments before enrolling in the trial.
Belgian scientists identified three groups of lung tumors based on how they grow and destroy other tissue. Each separate type of behavior correlated with a different prognosis. The researchers are still searching for underlying molecular features that explain the behavior differences, said Dr. David Carbone, the Harold L. Moses chair in cancer research and director of the Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Lung Cancer at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
Finally, a set of changes in microRNA expression could help determine which patients should be funneled towards conventional chemotherapy and which should receive other types of treatment, researchers from Arizona report. "MicroRNAs are small RNAS that control the expression of many genes," explained Jacks. "This set of three microRNAs correlated with resistance to therapy. This needs to be validated, but could be useful in diagnosing patients and applying relevant therapies."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on lung cancer.
SOURCES: Jay Brooks, chairman, hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge, La.; Jan. 12, 2010, teleconference with Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chief, thoracic medical oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., AACR president and director, David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Paul A. Bunn Jr., M.D., IASLC executive director and professor of medicine and James Dudley chair in cancer research, University of Colorado, Denver; David Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., Harold L. Moses chair in cancer research and director, Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Lung Cancer, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; and Matthew Meyerson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology, Harvard Medical School; study abstracts