Nav: Home

Cancer 'signature' first step toward blood test for patients

March 08, 2018

A discovery by Melbourne researchers could help to identify patients with a particularly aggressive type of lung cancer that are likely to respond to immunotherapies currently used in the clinic to treat other cancers.

The research has also revealed a unique molecular signature in the blood that could, in the future, be used to detect these aggressive lung cancers with a simple blood test.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cancer researchers Dr Sarah Best and Dr Kate Sutherland led the research, working with colleagues at Metabolomics Australia at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne. The study was published today in Cell Metabolism.

The study focused on the role of two cell signalling pathways - KEAP1/NRF2 and PI3K - which are known to be involved in human lung cancers called adenocarcinomas.

"More than one in five lung adenocarcinomas have alterations in the KEAP1/NRF2 pathway, suggesting it is a major cancer driver," Dr Sutherland said. "These cancers are very aggressive, are resistant to standard therapies and have a poor prognosis, so new therapies are urgently needed."

Adenocarcinoma accounts for around 40 per cent of lung cancers and is often associated with a history of smoking, but is also the most commonly diagnosed lung cancer in non-smokers. It occurs more frequently in females and in young people than other types of lung cancer.

Dr Best said their study revealed that the tumours had characteristics indicating they were likely to respond well to immunotherapy.

"This is extremely important because these tumours are chemotherapy and radiotherapy resistant, meaning there are effectively no current treatments for these patients," Dr Best said.

"Using preclinical models, we showed for the first time that these tumours have the 'markers' that respond to anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapies, which are some of the most exciting new cancer therapies being investigated in the clinic.

"But more importantly, we showed that these immunotherapies were effective in fighting the tumours and leading to tumour regression in our preclinical models."

Dr Best said the research showed that non-stop signalling caused by mutations in the KEAP1/NRF2 and PI3K pathways caused lung adenocarcinomas to develop.

"This is the first time anyone has shown that these alterations directly cause lung adenocarcinomas. With this knowledge, we can further investigate how targeting those pathways could lead to therapies for these aggressive and hard-to-treat cancers," she said.

Dr Sutherland said the unique molecular signatures found in the blood could be a tool to identify patients who would respond to immunotherapies, or even as an early detection test for these cancers.

"Working with our colleagues Dr David De Souza and Professor Malcolm McConville at Bio21 Institute, we were able to identify a unique 'breadcrumb' trail that the cancers leave behind in the blood," Dr Sutherland said.

"Our hope would be that the test could identify patients likely to respond to immunotherapies, but also that it could be a simple, non-invasive blood test for the early detection of these lung cancers.

"The next steps would be to analyse human samples to prove the same is true in lung adenocarcinoma patients, but we need more funding for that work to continue and to generate results that will lead to better detection and treatments for the community."
-end-
The Institute is the research powerhouse of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, an alliance of leading Victorian hospitals and research centres committed to controlling cancer.

The research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Peter and Julie Alston Centenary Fellowship, Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Victorian Cancer Agency, the Victorian Government and Worldwide Cancer Research (UK).

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Related Lung Cancer Articles:

'Social smokers' face disproportionate risk of death from lung disease and lung cancer
'Social smokers' are more than twice as likely to die of lung disease and more than eight times as likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.
Lung cancer therapy may improve outcomes of metastatic brain cancer
A medication commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread, or metastasized, may have benefits for patients with metastatic brain cancers, suggests a new review and analysis led by researchers at St.
Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Lung transplant patients face elevated lung cancer risk
In an American Journal of Transplantation study, lung cancer risk was increased after lung transplantation, especially in the native (non-transplanted) lung of single lung transplant recipients.
Proposed cancer treatment may boost lung cancer stem cells, study warns
Epigenetic therapies -- targeting enzymes that alter what genes are turned on or off in a cell -- are of growing interest in the cancer field as a way of making a cancer less aggressive or less malignant.
Are you at risk for lung cancer?
This question isn't only for people who've smoked a lot.
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in Germany and the disease affects both men and women.
New liquid biopsy-based cancer model reveals data on deadly lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for 14 percent of all lung cancers and is often rapidly resistant to chemotherapy resulting in poor clinical outcomes.
Cancer drug leads to 'drastic decrease' in HIV infection in lung cancer patient
Doctors in France have found the first evidence that a cancer drug may be able to eradicate HIV-infected cells in humans.
More Lung Cancer News and Lung Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.