Four inherited gene variants have been identified in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). These variants can help predict survival and treatment response. Further, these findings could lead to more personalized treatment options and improved outcomes for patients.

The research team, from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, analyzed DNA sequence variations in 651 patients with NSCLC paying close attention to 53 inflammation-related genes. They found that four of the top 15 variants associated with survival were located on one specific gene (TNFSF10B). In the study, these variants increased the risk for death as much as 41%. The researchers also found that patients with these gene variants had a greater risk for death if their treatment plans included surgery without chemotherapy compared with patients who were treated with chemotherapy following surgery.

“There are few validated biomarkers that can predict survival or treatment response for patients with non-small cell lung cancer,” said the study’s lead author, Matthew B. Schabath, PhD, of Moffitt. “Having a validated genetic biomarker based on inherited differences in our genes may allow physicians to determine the best treatments for an individual patient based on their unique genetics.”

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women. Additionally, NSCLC represents more than 80% of lung cancer diagnoses.

“Non-small cell lung cancer has an extremely poor 5-year survival rate. Only about 16% of all patients survive for 5 years and, tragically, only about 4% of patients with late-stage disease live longer than 5 years,” explained Schabath. “Part of the difficulty in treating lung cancer is the genetic diversity of patients and their tumors. Using a personalized medicine approach to match the best treatment option to a patient based on his or her genetics will lead to better outcomes.”

The researchers noted that there has been no published data examining the association of these four specific variants on cancer risk or outcome, although studies have reported associations with other gene variants in the same gene family as TNFRSF10B. Their study was published in Carcinogenesis (2013; doi:10.1093/carcin/bgt244).