Biomarker test could reduce lung cancer deaths

A test developed by University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers could help late-stage lung cancer patients get the right treatment for their disease. In 2003 University of Colorado School of Medicine Professor Fred Hirsch and his colleagues developed a biomarker test that was able to detect the protein Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). The test used a scoring system ranging from 0 to 400; patients who scored 200 or higher were likely to have better outcomes.

In a recent European study of 1,125 lung cancer patients, investigators used the cancer center's test and found that 30% of the trial subjects had high levels of the EGFR protein. Patients were divided into two groups; one which received standard chemotherapy and another that got chemotherapy plus the cancer drug Erbitux. The drug, which is typically used to treat colorectal and head and neck cancers, inhibits cell growth by attaching to EGRF receptors on lung cancer cells.

Researchers found that Caucasian patients in the Erbitux group with an over expression of EGFR had a 36% reduction in deaths compared to the other group. "With this personalized medicine we can identify subgroups of patients that can get better effects from certain drugs," noted Hirsch in a release. "In some cases there is a potential for a cure. Right now the cure rate for advanced lung cancer is 2% to 3% at best. This is a huge improvement but everything is based on the selection criteria."

- here's the release for more