Gene mutations point to personalized therapy in lung cancer

Two sets of genetic mutations, put together by teams of researchers from the U.S., Germany and South Korea, could point the way to developing better diagnostics and more targeted treatments, as well as better use of existing treatments for lung cancer, a disease with very low survival rates, according to research published in Cell.

Lung cancer overall kills more than 1.3 million people each year, and lung adenocarcinoma is the most common form of non-small cell lung cancer, with around half a million deaths worldwide every year. Smoking is the biggest risk factor, but people who have never smoked can also develop lung cancer, and the genetic mutations may be different in the two subsets of the disease, which could affect how they respond to treatment. By comparing DNA from healthy cells and lung adenocarcinoma samples, an international team of researchers found a series of genetic mutations that tied in with the patients' history of smoking and their cancer, as well as finding completely new mutations. This is the largest genomic study of lung adenocarcinoma to date.

A team from the U.S. also sequenced healthy and non-small cell lung cancer tissue in smokers and non-smokers, and found that smokers had more than 10 times as many mutations as people who had never smoked. The mutations were different in the two different groups, including changes that could be targeted with existing drugs.

"These efforts should spur more studies to fully understand the genomic landscape of lung cancer--more specifically, those who have no history of tobacco smoking," says study author Ramaswamy Govindan of Washington University School of Medicine. "This will help us to identify new targets for therapy to improve the outcomes of our cancer patients."

- read the press release
- see the abstract about lung adenocarcinoma
- check out the abstract about smokers and non-smokers