Blood ‘clues’ could detect lung cancer

Blood ‘clues’ could detect lung cancer

Illuminate newsletter index page, June 2018
June 2018

Dr Kate Sutherland and Dr Sarah Best
Dr Kate Sutherland (left) and Dr Sarah Best have revealed
a cancer ‘signature’ in the blood that could help to detect lung
cancer with a simple blood test.

Institute researchers have revealed unique molecular clues in the blood that could be used to detect aggressive lung cancers with a simple blood test.

The research could also help to identify which lung cancer patients are most likely to respond to immunotherapies currently being used in the clinic to treat other cancers.

Dr Sarah Best and Dr Kate Sutherland led the research, working with colleagues at Metabolomics Australia at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne.

New treatment hope

Dr Best said the study showed for the first time that some lung adenocarcinomas developed due to abnormal signalling in the KEAP1/NRF2 and PI3K pathways.

Using preclinical models, Dr Best said the study identified ‘markers’ on the tumours known to respond to anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapies, which are some of the most exciting new cancer therapies being investigated in the clinic.

“We showed for the first time that immunotherapy was effective in fighting tumours and led to tumour regression."

“This is very exciting as these tumours are often resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, meaning there are effectively no current treatments for these patients," Dr Best said.

Simple blood test

Dr Sutherland said the unique molecular clues found in the blood could identify patients likely to respond to immunotherapies, but also that it could be a simple, non-invasive blood test for the early detection of these lung cancers.

“With our colleagues at Bio21 Institute, we were able to identify a unique ‘breadcrumb’ trail that the cancers leave behind in the blood,” Dr Sutherland said.

“The next steps would be to analyse human samples to prove the same is true in lung adenocarcinoma patients, but we need more funding for that work to continue and to generate results that will lead to better detection and treatments for the community.”