September 9, 2009

Genetic cancer signature aids therapy

U.S. researchers say they have discovered a molecular signature linked with a variety of cancers that can be used to personalize treatment.

Scientists at the Moores Cancer Center, located at the University of California-San Diego, said a receptor on the surface of certain aggressive tumor cells might also predict the likelihood of successful treatment with a particular anti-cancer drug and lead to a personalized treatment approach.

The researchers found the receptor can activate a key enzyme that helps tumor cells become more aggressive. That enzyme is the target of the anti-cancer drug dasatinib, which blocks its activity and is currently approved for treating chronic myelogenous leukemia. The scientists said the presence of the same protein receptor on some more common solid tumors could help identify individuals with many other types of cancer that are also likely to respond to the drug.

These results could enable us to identify the sub-population of cancer patients who are likely to respond to treatment with dasatinib, said Professor David Cheresh, who led the research. Rather than treat all patients with a given tumor type the same way "¦ we can customize the treatment in such a way that we impact the patients most likely to be sensitive to a drug.

The study appears in the early online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.