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According to an article recently published in the journal Cancer Cell, molecular profiles from tissue of lung cancer can help predict prognosis, even among those with the earliest stages of lung cancer. Patients with a poor prognosis according to these results may benefit from additional therapy.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. In fact, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than the following three leading causes of cancer-related deaths combined: breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for approximately 75%-80% of all lung cancers. “Non-small cell” refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated.

Staging of lung cancer determines of the extent of spread of the cancer. Accuracy in staging is crucial since treatment options and prognosis are primarily determined by stage.

Currently, the stage of NSCLC is typically defined by the size of the cancer and by areas within the body that the cancer has invaded. However, since survival rates among patients with the same stage of NSCLC vary widely, researchers continue to evaluate other prognostic factors that may improve staging accuracy.

Researchers from several medical institutions recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate molecular profiles referred to as microRNAs (miRNAs) and their potential to predict outcomes in patients with adenocarcinoma of the lung (a type of NSCLC).

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This study included samples from 104 patients diagnosed with NSCLC. The researchers compared cancerous lung tissue to healthy lung tissue of the same patient.

  • The researchers identified two miRNAs, referred to as has-mir-155 and has-let-7a-2, that were associated with survival of patients.
  • Patients with high levels of has-mir-155 and/or low levels of has-let-7a-2 had significantly poorer survival than their counterparts.
  • All clinical and molecular factors taken together, including stage, high levels of has-mir-155, and/or low levels of has-let-7a-2 were the most significant factors for a poor outcome.

The researchers concluded that these two miRNAs may provide value in individualizing treatment for patients with NSCLC since they appear highly predictive of outcomes for patients with this disease. Further study evaluating has-mir-155 and has-let-71-2 levels are warranted.

Reference: Yanaihara N, Caplen N, Bowman E, et al. Unique microRNA Molecular Profiles in Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis. Cancer Cell. 2006; 9: 189-198.

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