Genes May Boost Lung Cancer Chemo

Finding May Mean Some Patients Can Take Lower Doses of Chemotherapy

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 11, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

April 11, 2007 -- Certain genes may make some lung cancer patients more sensitive to chemotherapy, a new study shows.

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.

They screened more than 21,000 genes in human lung cancer cells. Specifically, all of the lung cancer cells were non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer.

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.

Chemotherapy is used to help kill cancer cells and to prevent cancer's return.

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.

White's team also tested six Taxol-sensitive genes with two other chemotherapy drugs, Navelbine and Gemzar. The Taxol-sensitive genes weren't very sensitive to those drugs, the study shows.

The study appears in Nature.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Whitehurst, A. Nature, April 12, 2007; vol 446: pp 815-819. News release, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. News release, Nature.

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