Altered genes may represent biomarkers to improve drug responsiveness for cancer patients, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (2010 Aug 2;120(8):2858-66).

In a study led by Alberto Bardelli, from the University of Turin Medical School, Italy, researchers identified a method to help predict which patients will respond to drugs used to treat several forms of cancer.

Results of the study revealed that human cancer cells with mutations in the PIK3CA gene responded to everolimus, a drug that targets the protein mTOR, in vitro except when a KRAS gene mutation was also present. In addition, researchers reported that in a cohort of metastatic cancer patients, the presence of KRAS gene mutations was associated with lack of response to treatment with everolimus therapy.

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According to the authors, the findings suggest that by looking for the presence or absence of PIK3CA and KRAS mutations in a person’s tumor, it will be possible to predict whether or not that person will benefit from treatment with a drug that targets mTOR.