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Circulating tumor cells can reveal genetic signature of dangerous lung cancers
Date:7/2/2008

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have shown that an MGH-developed, microchip-based device that detects and analyzes tumor cells in the bloodstream can be used to determine the genetic signature of lung tumors, allowing identification of those appropriate for targeted treatment and monitoring genetic changes that occur during therapy. A pilot study of the device called the CTC-chip will appear in the July 24 New England Journal of Medicine and is receiving early online release.

"The CTC-chip opens up a whole new field of studying tumors in real time," says Daniel Haber, MD, director of the MGH Cancer Center and the study's senior author. "When the device is ready for larger clinical trials, it should give us new options for measuring treatment response, defining prognostic and predictive measures, and studying the biology of blood-borne metastasis, which is the primary method by which cancer spreads and becomes lethal."

CTCs or circulating tumor cells are living solid-tumor cells found at extremely low levels in the bloodstream. Until the development of the CTC-chip by researchers from the MGH Cancer Center and BioMEMS (BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems) Resource Center, it was not possible to get information from CTCs that would be useful for clinical decision-making. The current study was designed to find whether the device could go beyond detecting CTCs to helping analyze the genetic mutations that can make a tumor sensitive to treatment with targeted therapy drugs.

The researchers tested blood samples from patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. In 2004, MGH researchers and a team from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute both discovered that mutations in a protein called EGFR determine whether NSCLC tumors respond to a group of drugs called TKIs, which includes Iressa and Tarceva. Although the response of sensitive tumors to those drugs can be swift
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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