Predicting Life After Lung Cancer

Lung cancer assay accurately predicts prognosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Not only is lung cancer one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, it's also the leading cause of death in China. A new test may help save thousands of lives.

Researchers have found a test that's highly accurate in predicting the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer. This test can help determine the most effective course of treatment, and possibly save many, many lives.

"Ask your doctor for help with quitting smoking."

Two clinical trials looked at a test that measures fourteen genes in the tumors of people with early-stage lung cancer.  One involved 433 people in northern California, and the other study worked with 1,006 people in China.

Both trials found that the test was able to accurately predict a person's likelihood of being alive within five years of surgery to remove the cancer.

"It's quite exciting," said David Jablons, M.D., the Ada Distinguished Professor in Thoracic Oncology and leader of the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). "This has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of people every year survive longer."

Michael Mann, M.D., an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at UCSF, was co-leader of the study.

Staging is currently used to determine lung cancer prognosis or outlook and guide treatment decisions following surgery. This process analyzes the tumor size, location and what the tissue looks like under a microscope.

But if prognosis could be more accurately forecasted, people could receive additional treatment to keep any remaining cancer from growing. And the benefit of this approach could be life-saving.

Previous studies have shown that chemotherapy can help reduce the risk of recurrence when there is evidence of lymph node involvement - which raises the risk of further spread of the disease.

There are several problems associated with treating lung cancer: 1) it's usually detected at a later stage; 2) even early-stage cancers are lethal in 35-45 percent of people; 3) undetected cancer cells can hide in the lungs and other parts of the body, eventually resulting in recurrence.

This new molecular assay could help guide decisions regarding who would benefit most from chemotherapy.

UCSF originally developed the technology which is the basis of this molecular assay . The assay itself was developed by Pinpoint Genomics.

The test compares the genetic make-up of cancerous tissue with normal lung tissue. Then an algorithm developed by Pinpoint is used to calculate the patient's risk of dying from the disease. The company studied tissue from 361 patients in designing this algorithm.

This algorithm was then tested with early-stage lung cancer patients both in the US and in China. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in China.

Researchers found the test was very accurate in differentiating patients with high, intermediate or low risks of death. These findings also held up in patients with more advanced stages of disease.

Findings from this researcher were published January 27, 2012 in the journal Lancet.

This is the first study from  the China Clinical Trials Consortium (CCTC), a collaborative effort between hospitals and universities across mainland China. Leaders from the UCSF Thoracic Oncology Program help to organize the trial as a means of confronting lung cancer epidemic in China.

A number of the study's researchers disclosed financial relationships with Pinpoint Genomics.

The research was supported by private endowments to the UCSF Thoracic Oncology Laboratory and by Pinpoint Genomics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 26, 2012
Last Updated:
January 26, 2012