Findings of study into cancer to be released


New research into how different types of lung cancer respond to treatment will be presented at a conference in Dublin this week.

Susan Heavey, a PhD student working at St James’s Hospital, has identified how particular mutations of the disease respond differently to treatment and how some forms are resistant to chemotherapy.

The research will be presented at the British Toracic Oncology Group Conference in the Burlington Hotel starting on Wednesday.

Lung cancer is now the biggest cancer killer and only 12 per cent of patients with it are alive five years after diagnosis.

New treatments are being developed, particularly Crizotinib, but it is only effective in a small sub-set of patients.

Other novel treatments are being tested on patients at St James’ Hospital. The drugs do not have a name yet.

Ms Heavey said the results from trials “have not been great”. She added: “What we are looking at is trying to pick out the exact patient population that will respond best. With a combination of these drugs we might have a huge improvement.

“My hope is that by the end of this project, we will be able to predict which types of lung cancer patients will benefit from these new drugs.”

She said there was a lot of work being done worldwide on genotyping. “It is important to get new treatments like this. We haven’t had a huge breakthrough in lung cancer for quite a while.”

Experiments on lung cancer cells were completed in the laboratory at St James’s Hospital, which has access to lung cancer tissue samples from more than 700 victims.

The research is funded by the Irish Cancer Society. Head of research Prof John Fitzpatrick said: “In an era of personalised medicine her research and patient genotyping will give us a better understanding of how patients may respond to combination treatment strategies and hopefully will make lung cancer controllable.”

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