Molecular Tumor Markers Could Reveal New Therapeutic Targets for Lung Cancer Treatment

The gist: New research looking into tumor mutations in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and neuroendocrine tumors (NET) may open up new drug options to treat these conditions. Drugs called targeted therapies have been developed to treat people with tumors that have certain genetic mutations. Several targeted therapies are available for people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). But so far, targeted therapies have not been very useful in SCLC. Now, researchers have found that some SCLC and NET tumors may share some tumor mutations with NSCLC tumors. Theoretically, a patient with SCLC or NET could ask their oncologist for molecular testing to see whether their tumor(s) could potentially be treated off-label with an existing NSCLC drug. To learn more about SCLC treatment, see our Need to Know blog.

“Analysis of 607 small cell lung cancer (SCLC) lung tumors and neuroendocrine tumors (NET) identified common molecular markers among both groups that could reveal new therapeutic targets for patients with similar types of lung cancer, according to research presented today at the 2014 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology. The Symposium is sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) and The University of Chicago Medicine.

“This study examined the clinical specimens of 607 total cases of SCLC tumors (375) and lung NET (232), which included carcinoid, atypical carcinoid and large-cell neuroendocrine tumors. Biomarker testing was achieved through a combination of DNA sequencing (Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) or Sanger-based); immunohistochemistry (IHC) to identify which proteins are present; and in situ hybridization (ISH) testing, a form of gene amplification, to determine if any of the markers that can cause cancer cells to grow or to become resistant to treatment are present…

” ‘Even cancers that appear to be very similar can be dramatically different at the molecular level, and these differences may reflect unique vulnerabilities that could positively impact therapeutic options and decisions,’ said Stephen V. Liu, MD, senior study author and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, DC. ‘We are pleased that this research confirms these rarer subtypes; it calls for additional investigation on a larger scale. Once confirmed, molecular profiling of small cell tumors and NET could become standard, as it is currently for non-small cell lung cancers, which will be especially important as more molecularly targeted chemotherapy agents are developed.’ “