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According to the results of a study published in Lancet Oncology, high expression of a gene known as choline kinase alpha appears to be linked with worse survival among patients with early-stage non–small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) refers to the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 75–80% of all lung cancers in the U.S.

For patients with NSCLC, determination of the stage of the cancer (based on tumor size and extent of spread) provides important prognostic information and also guides treatment decisions. However, even among patients with the same stage of cancer, treatment outcomes vary; this suggests that additional prognostic factors are needed.

The choline kinase alpha gene is thought to play a role in the development of some cancers. To explore whether choline kinase alpha gene expression level influences prognosis among patients with early-stage NSCLC, researchers conducted a study among patients with NSCLC that had been completely surgically removed. A majority of the patients had been diagnosed with Stage I to Stage IIIA NSCLC.

The researchers developed the test in an initial group of 53 patients and validated the test (confirmed their initial results) in a separate group of 114 patients.

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Patients with high choline kinase alpha gene expression had worse lung cancer survival than patients with lower expression of the gene. In a combined analysis of all 167 patients, four-year lung cancer survival was 49% among patients with high choline kinase alpha gene expression and 70.5% among patients with lower choline kinase alpha gene expression.

The researchers conclude that information about choline kinase alpha gene expression may provide additional prognostic information among patients with early-stage NSCLC. In addition, studies of treatments that inhibit choline kinase alpha expression or activity may be warranted.

Reference: Ramirez de Molina A, Sarmentero-Estrada J, Belda-Iniesta C et al. Expression of choline kinase alpha to predict outcome in patients with early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer: a retrospective study. Lancet Oncology [early online publication]. September 11, 2007.

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