If so, those lung cancer patients may be able to take lower doses of chemotherapy, note the researchers, who work in Dallas at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Of the genes studied, 87 were particularly sensitive to the chemotherapy drug Taxol in a series of lab tests.
Some of those genes were 1,000 times more sensitive to Taxol when exposed to Taxol for 48 hours, compared with genes that weren't especially sensitive to Taxol.
So far, the scientists haven't studied the genes in animals or people. But if the findings apply to people, it may help doctors determine the lowest chemo dose that patients require.
But chemotherapy is a "very blunt instrument" that can cause side effects, researcher and cell biologist Michael White, PhD, says in a news release.
"Identifying genes that make chemotherapy drugs more potent at lower doses is a first step toward alleviating these effects in patients," says White.
The study appears in Nature.