Breast gene link to lung cancer death

A gene that increases susceptibility to breast cancer may also predict worse outcomes in lung cancer patients, a European study has shown.

High levels of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene have been shown to double the risk of mortality over three years following surgery for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Outcomes in NSCLC patients could be improved by offering adjuvant chemotherapy to those with high levels of the gene, the researchers suggested.

They analysed tumour samples taken from 126 Polish patients during surgery for NSCLC. They then measured levels of five genes believed to play a role in progression of NSCLC, including BRCA1.

Of the five genes, only BRCA1 was found to be predictive of survival. Patients with high levels of BRCA1 expression had a 98 per cent increased risk of dying within three years of surgery, compared with patients with low levels of BRCA1.

In the 36 patients whose tumours had high levels of BRCA1, event-free survival was 22 months on average.

Examination of NSCLC tumour samples from a separate group of 58 patients confirmed high BRCA1 expression more than doubled the risk of death.

Speaking at the European Cancer Conference in Barcelona last week, lead researcher Dr Rafael Rosell, from the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, said: 'Our research shows that patients whose tumours had high BRCA1 expression had worse survival and should be candidates for adjuvant chemotherapy.'

He added that earlier studies had shown that different levels of BRCA1 expression affect response to different types of chemotherapy.

'BRCA1 could be a landmark predictor of chemosensitivity in NSCLC. We believe patients with the highest expression levels should receive antimicrotubule, non-platinum-based chemotherapy,' he said.

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