Predicting life expectancy accurately in lung cancer patients is challenging. However, there is a new method, which is proving that it can accurately predict life expectancy in people diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer. The test can guide physicians towards the most effective course of treatment and thereby save many lives.
Two large clinical trials, led by an international team of scientists at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has found a molecular test that can predict prognosis of early stage lung cancer more accurately than conventional methods. The study results have been published in the journal, The Lancet.
The clinical trials involved one blinded study, in which tissue samples of 433 people with early stage lung cancer in Northern California were analyzed. The second study participants were 1,006 people with early stage lung cancer in China. Both trial results showed that the test could predict life expectancy within five years of lung removal surgery as low, intermediate, or high.
How the New Molecular Assay Works to Predict Lung Cancer Survival?
- The assay requires a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).
- A piece of cancerous tissue from the patient is embedded in paraffin wax.
- RNA is extracted from tumor cells.
- Activity levels of 14 specific genes are determined.
- These are compared to levels in normal lung tissue.
- 11 of these genes are specific for lung cancer biology and the other 3 are common genes and act as control for measuring cancer genes.
- An algorithm has been developed by Pinpoint Genomics, which can calculate death risk by correlating levels of these 14 genes.
The molecular assay uses technology developed at UCSF and assay developed by Pinpoint Genomics.
Standard Cancer Treatment and Prognosis Issues
People with lung cancer are treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy. In patients without lymph node involvement, general approach is surgery followed by clinical observation. During, the wait and watch approach, doctors may prescribe surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, if cancer recurs. In effect, the small undetectable clumps of cancer cells in the lungs or in various parts of the body are allowed to grow into tumors and only then detected and treated.