Lower patient survival and worse clinical outcomes across a variety of cancer types were correlated with increased expression of 4 genes in the Ly6 gene family. These findings came from an analysis of 130 gene expression studies from 10 solid cancers.1

This study, published in Oncotarget, examined the results from the gene expression omnibus dataset using Oncomine (Invitrogen) and Georgetown Database of Cancer. These publically available datasets contain clinical outcome information. Previous mouse research suggested the Ly6 gene family might be important in maintaining a stem cell-like state in cancerous cells.

Increased gene expression in 4 different Ly6 gene family members (Ly6D, Ly6E, Ly6H, and Ly6K) in breast, bladder, brain and central nervous system, cervical, colorectal, lung, ovarian, head and neck, prostate, and pancreatic cancers was observed. Increased expression of these 4 Ly6 family genes is associated with worse prognosis in patients with these cancers.

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“These are remarkable findings. We believe this family of genes produces cancer that easily metastasizes, is drug resistant and very difficult to destroy,” stated Geeta Upadhyay, PhD, research assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, DC, and lead investigator in the study.

This research suggests these 4 Ly6 family genes are potential novel therapeutic targets as well as markers of poor prognosis.

“Correlation between Ly6 gene expression and poor patient survival in multiple cancer types indicate that this family of genes will be important in clinical practice, not only as a marker of poor prognosis, but as targets for new drugs,” Upadhyay said.

“The cancer field makes rapid progress when researchers share data and this study, which examines the work of scores of research teams, illustrates what can be done.”

Research grants from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society supported this work.


1. Luo L, McGarvey P, Madhavan S, Kumar R, Gusev Y, Upadhyay G. Distinct lymphocyte antigens 6 (Ly6) family members Ly6D, Ly6E, Ly6K and Ly6H drive tumorigenesis and clinical outcome [published online ahead of print February 3, 2016]. Oncotarget. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.7163.