Scientists in Australia find potential blood test for lung cancer

9 March 2018 (Last Updated March 9th, 2018 11:40)

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia have discovered a unique molecular signature of an aggressive lung cancer called adenocarcinoma. 

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia have discovered a unique molecular signature of an aggressive lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.

The biomarker is expected to aid in predicting patients who would potentially respond to anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapies that are currently used in clinics for the treatment of other types of cancer.

As the molecular characteristic is present in the blood, researchers believe it could possibly allow development of a simple test for detection of the lung cancer.

In partnership with colleagues at Metabolomics Australia, the institute researchers observed two cell signalling pathways, KEAP1/NRF2 and PI3K, associated with adenocarcinomas.

They found that continuous signalling due to mutations in these pathways led to the development of cancer.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research cancer researcher Dr Sarah Best said: “This is the first time anyone has shown that these alterations directly cause lung adenocarcinomas.

“These cancers are very aggressive, are resistant to standard therapies and have a poor prognosis, so new therapies are urgently needed.”

“With this knowledge, we can further investigate how targeting those pathways could lead to therapies for these aggressive and hard-to-treat cancers.”

Common in females and young people, adenocarcinoma constitutes approximately 40% of all lung cancers. As the cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it currently lacks therapy options.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research cancer researcher Dr Kate Sutherland said: “More than one in five lung adenocarcinomas have alterations in the KEAP1/NRF2 pathway, suggesting it is a major cancer driver.

“These cancers are very aggressive, are resistant to standard therapies and have a poor prognosis, so new therapies are urgently needed.”

The researchers intend to extend their current research from preclinical models to human sample analysis to ensure that the observations would be similar in lung adenocarcinoma patients.