Results from a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center found that hereditary genetic variations in interleukin genes are related with survival improvement and response to therapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer. NSCLC is associated with a poor prognosis with only 16% of patients surviving 5-years or more.
Usually, cancer researchers are focused on biomarkers to predict which patients are at risk of developing the disease, patients’ prognosis, their response to therapy and their chance of disease recurrence. Biomarkers consist of genetic mutations, the presence of a particular protein or of a hereditary variation in the genes.
The research team studied hereditary genetic variations specifically in genes that code for immune mediators called interleukins. A total of 33 interleukin genes in 651 patients with NSCLC patients were genotyped. “Interleukins have important roles in regulating cell growth, cell death and in the activation of the immune system,” explained Matthew Schabath, Ph.D., assistant member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at Moffitt in a recent news release. “Inherited genetic variations in interleukins and other genes can change their function and promote cancer development or control a patient’s response to therapy.”
The results revealed that NSCLC patients with genetic variations in the genes encoding for interleukin responded better to chemotherapy or to surgery plus chemotherapy. This resulted in overall survival improvements, disease-free survival and increased disease recurrence time.
This information could be used to personalize patient care in the future. “Discovery of biomarkers based on germline DNA variations represent a potentially valuable complementary strategy which could have translational implications for predicting patient outcomes and sub-classifying patients to tailored, patient-specific treatment,” said Dr. Schabath.
The tissue samples for the genetic analyses derived from the Total Cancer Care Protocol, a multi-institutional program in Moffitt that involves 17 community hospitals and research sites located across the county. The program aims to improve strategies for the prevention and cancer care through partnerships between physicians, researchers and patients.
Patients who seek care in the program make tissue samples donations and provide their health information. The Total Cancer Care Protocol managers and physicians follow patients for life to register information on their health status, while researchers use patient’s information for research on cancer development and strategies for treatment. At the moment, the program includes tissue samples and information from more than 50,000 patients.