"We found that almost 75 percent of the patients' cancers have mutations that can be targeted with existing drugs -- drugs that are available commercially or for clinical trials," says one of the lead investigators, Ramaswamy Govindan, MD, an oncologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and co-chair of the lung cancer group of The Cancer Genome Atlas.
The research appears online Sept. 9 in Nature.
The Cancer Genome Atlas project combines efforts of the nation's leading genetic sequencing centers, including The Genome Institute at Washington University, to describe the genetics of common tumors with the goal of improving prevention, detection and treatment. The Cancer Genome Atlas is supported by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, both parts of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The other lung cancer co-chairs are the study's senior author Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, of the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and Stephen Baylin, MD, of Johns Hopkins University.
The study examined the tumors and normal tissue of 178 patients with lung squamous cell carcinoma. The investigators found recurring mutations common to many patients in 18 genes. And almost all of the tumors showed mutations in a gene called TP53, known for its role in repairing damaged DNA.
Interestingly, the researchers noted that lung squamous cell carcinoma shares many mutations with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, supporting the emerging body of evidence that cancers may be more appropriately classified by their genetics rather than the primary organ they affect.
"We clearly see mutations in lung cancer that we see in other human cancers," says Richard K. Wilson, PhD, director of The Genome Institute at Washington University. "This reinforces something that we've been seeing in a lot of our cancer genomics work. It's really less about what type of tissue the tumor arises in – lung, breast, skin, prostate – and more about what genes and pathways are affected."
Current treatment for squamous cell lung cancers includes chemotherapy and radiation, but there are no drugs specifically designed to target this particular type of lung cancer. Squamous cell lung cancer is linked to smoking and responsible for 30 percent of all lung cancer cases.
"With this analysis, we are just starting to understand the molecular biology of lung squamous cell carcinoma," says Govindan, who treats patients at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University. "And now we have identified potential targets for therapies to study in future clinical trials."
The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network. Comprehensive genomic characterization of squamous cell lung cancers. Nature. Sept. 9, 2012
Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Julia Evangelou Strait | EurekAlert!
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
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