Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Testing Lung Cancer Patients for Gene May Aid Treatment, Study Finds

For those with the gene, drugs appeared to extend survival without spread of disease by several months

  • Print

MONDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Lung cancer patients carrying a rare gene mutation may experience delayed disease progression with drugs often taken by those with breast cancer, a new study suggests.

European researchers found that patients with non-small cell lung cancer who took drugs targeting so-called HER2 proteins -- which result from gene mutations in less than 5 percent of lung cancers -- experienced an extra five months of progression-free survival.

"We were favorably surprised by the outcome of patients and the promising activity of drugs that are usually dedicated to breast cancer patients," said study author Dr. Julien Mazieres, a professor of pulmonology at Larrey Hospital in Toulouse, France. "We do think that all lung [cancers] should be tested for HER2 as is done in France."

The study was published April 22 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Non-small cell is the most common type of lung cancer -- the type seen in about 85 percent of lung cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and 158,000 die from it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HER2-positive cancer tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which feeds the growth of cancer cells and is caused by a gene mutation.

Mazieres and his colleagues identified this mutation in 65 non-small cell lung cancer patients, administering anti-HER2 drugs such as Herceptin (trastuzumab), which also is used to target HER2 in breast cancer patients.

Half of the patients were already at stage 4 lung cancer when diagnosed, while others were at earlier stages of the disease. Notably, most participants with the gene mutation were women, more than half of whom had never smoked.

The extra five months of progression-free survival experienced by patients undergoing HER2 therapies "is a big deal in the cancer business," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

"It's not absolutely a new finding, but it's another study in what is a very exciting field now in cancer," Edelman said. "Up until now, we've treated cancers ... using an elephant gun. This new field looks at the genetic makeup of individual tumors to see if we can attack them in a specific way, not a general way."

Although only a small percentage of lung cancer patients carry this gene mutation, Edelman recommended that all patients be tested for it.

"It's useful and it's being done," he said. "If I had somebody I cared about who I thought had lung cancer, I would say to only go to a center where they're doing this testing. The odds are strong they will not be benefited [by anti-HER2 drugs], but lung cancer is a devastating disease."

Mazieres and Edelman agreed that future research in this area should focus on large clinical trials, which are costly but can tease out various genetic abnormalities that are important to tumor growth.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about lung cancer.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jim Flaherty remembered at visitation as irreplaceable

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google