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Gene Test May Help Determine Early Lung Cancer Survival

Test May Help Doctors Decide Which Patients Would Benefit From Chemotherapy After Surgery
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Gene-Profiling Lung Tumors continued...

And they think they have succeeded.

So far, researchers have tried out the test in three different patient populations, representing more than 1,800 people with non-squamous, non-small-cell lung cancer, which is the most common type.

The results have been remarkably consistent.

Patients with tumors that had a high-risk profile as measured by the test also had a high rate of early death. About half of those patients were not alive five years after their diagnoses.

About 42% of patients with tumors that were deemed intermediate risk based on their genetic profile were not alive five years after their cancer was discovered.

And 25% to 30% of patients with low-risk tumors had not survived five years later.

The researchers’ results are published in The Lancet.

Will Gene-Profiling Lung Cancers Improve Treatment?

Researchers say it’s not yet clear what this means in terms of treatment.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Mann says. “We know that certain subsets of patients who undergo surgery will have increased survival if they get chemotherapy after surgery,” he says.

But chemotherapy is not recommended for many stage I non-small-cell lung cancers. Mann thinks that’s because the studies simply haven’t be able to distinguish high-risk from low-risk patients. He thinks the new test could change that.

Other experts agree.

“In my mind, currently, it’s the best of anything I’ve seen, and it’s done in a fashion that could be deployed in the real world,” says John L. Minna, MD, a pulmonary oncologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Minna wrote a commentary on the study but was not involved in the research.

He says with more people getting screening tests for lung cancer, having a better way to distinguish high-risk from low-risk patients will be important for making sure people don’t get too much or too little treatment for their disease.

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