Researchers of the Tulane University have identified markers that can predict whether lung cancer is likely to spread, which is an important advance since there are currently no tests that allow doctors to identify patients where more aggressive therapy could reduce mortality.
It is a protein in tumor-derived extracellular vesicles that indicates whether non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is likely to metastasize, according to a new study published in the journal. Science Advances.
It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and more than half of patients die after developing metastases.
The identified protein could now be used as a biomarker to develop a rapid, minimally invasive test to detect these cancers early when they are most treatable, explains study author Tony Hu, president of the Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Biotechnology Innovation at the Tulane University School of Medicine.
“The goal of any cancer diagnosis and treatment is spot it early Hu adds. This information could help diagnose patients at high risk for cancer metastasis, and treatment could be tailored to account for that. Not all patients have the same type of tumor, and if you can direct therapy to treat a particular tumor, you can improve results. “
Most patients with NSCLC are not diagnosed until their primary tumor has metastasized to other parts of the body. However, even patients diagnosed with non-metastatic tumors of the same stage can often have very different treatment results.
A marker that could identify which patients are likely to develop metastatic NSCLC would help select those patients who should receive different treatment approaches to reduce their risk of metastasis and improve the odds of long-term survival.
However, no biomarker identified to date has a sensitivity, specificity or adequate reproducibility for this purpose and most require tumor samples that require invasive procedures that are not suitable for repeated analysis.
All cells shed extracellular vesicles, small membrane particles that carry proteins, RNA, and other molecules. These vesicles can join and transfer their content to specific cell types to change the behavior of these cells.
Extracellular vesicles expelled by cancer cells can alter the environment of adjacent and distant cells to establish metastatic niches that promote invasion and growth of circulating tumor cells.
The researchers of the study evaluated the proteins transported by the extracellular vesicles released by the cells of the NSCLC to determine which ones could serve as markers for metastatic cells. Hu and his team identified a protein that was highly expressed in extracellular vesicles of metastatic but non-metastatic NSCLC cells.
The next goal of the team Hu is to incorporate the biomarker profile with your well-developed nanoplasmonic detection assay for rapid clinical translation.