AsianScientist (Feb. 23, 2018) – Scientists from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and medical oncologists from the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) have discovered that lung cancer tumors in Asian patients contain much higher genetic diversity than those of Caucasian populations. They published their findings in Nature Communications.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortality in the world. It accounts for approximately 19 percent of all cancer-related deaths worldwide and has a mortality rate more than twice that of any other cancer. Lung cancer is also the most common type of cancer in Asia.
The number of incidences and deaths are expected to rise with increased pollution, particularly in large, densely populated Asian cities. Thus, newer and more effective individualized treatment strategies are crucial to tackle the growing threat and improve the quality of patients’ lives.
In this study, researchers led by Dr. Rahul Nahar at GIS discovered that mutations in a gene known as the epidermal growth factor receptor, EGFR3, occurs in more than 50 percent of the tumors in Singaporean lung cancer patients. While drugs targeting it are effective in controlling the disease, the response is short-lived.
“This joint study is one of the first major efforts to characterize and identify lung tumors in Singaporean patients on a large scale. It has generated a treasure trove of new genetic information and enabled us to perform detailed analyses, leading us to conclude that lung tumors in Asian patients are surprisingly more complex than previously appreciated,” said Nahar.
Dr. Axel Hillmer, Principal Investigator at GIS and a co-corresponding author of this study, added that the study of the genetic complexity of tumors in Asian patients provides new insights as to why they may quickly develop resistance after initial response to anti-EGFR drug inhibitors. He further explained that in tumors with a high number of mutations driving cancer progression, patient responses tended to be poorer.
“Understanding the comprehensive genetic landscape of these tumors allows us to go beyond single gene mutations (such as EGFR) to better understand the behavior of individual tumors, and tailor treatments more effectively. Further work needs to be focused on identifying drug combinations or treatment strategies that take into account the tumours’ ability to adapt to different treatments,” said Dr. Daniel Tan, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist at NCCS and the corresponding author of this paper.
Source: A*STAR; Photo: Shutterstock.
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