A new genetic test that could help predict cancer recurrence has been designed by researchers at the University of Salford (UK) according to a study published in Oncotarget. This development could lead the way to more personalized and precise treatments.
Currently, it is possible to routinely screen mitochondrial genes when patient biopsies are carried out for a range of cancer types including gastric, lung, ovarian and breast cancers. Screening of this type has proven to be more accurate when predicting a patient’s response to treatment than existing methods.
The new measures were developed by examining levels of mitochondrial gene expression in samples from cancer patients post-treatment.
“Early detection of cancer recurrence is everything; if we have information about a patient’s prognosis we can act much more effectively,” commented Michael Lisanti, (University of Salford).
“You never know if cancer will return or how to prepare for that, so knowing who will and who won’t respond well to treatment offers reassurance to doctors, patients and families, and allows a degree of closer monitoring,” added Lisanti.
Mitochondria were described by Lisanti as “the engine room of cancer stem cells.” These stem cells drive secondary regrowth. The team examined more than 400 mitochondrial genes, which were demonstrated to be more accurate markers of predicting recurrence or metastasis than cell proliferation markers (the current standard).
Kaplan-Meier curves were utilized by the team to determine how mitochondrial gene levels correlated with recurrence in hundreds of cancer patients. Five times higher rates of recurrence or metastasis were predicted by certain genes. HSPD1 was demonstrated to be a particularly useful biomarker and is associated with the production of new mitochondria.
The use of mitochondrial biomarkers, the team state, could allow for far greater accuracy when predicting which patients will respond poorly to drug treatments, including tamoxifen. The number of readily available indicators of patient prognosis is also increased through the use of mitochondrial biomarkers.
“In practical terms, a person in remission could be predicted to be 80% likely to fail treatment. If doctors can predict that a treatment will likely fail, it gives them more positive options; either they can monitor the patient more closely or offer an alternative course of treatment,” stated Federica Sotgia (University of Salford).
The team’s latest observations provide further evidence that mitochondria could be utilized as both biomarkers and drug targets. It could be possible in the future to control the generation of new mitochondria with novel therapeutics to more effectively prevent treatment failure.
Sources: Sotgia F, Fiorillo M, Lisanti MP. Mitochondrial markers predict recurrence, metastasis and tamoxifen-resistance in breast cancer patients: early detection of treatment failure with companion diagnostics. Oncotarget, doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.19612 (Epub ahead of print) (2017); www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170921095026.htm