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Abnormal Circulating Cells in Lung Cancer Patients: Possible New Technique for Identification

July 22, 2010

AACR Hosted Teleconference on July 22, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. ET.
(Recording of the teleconference available below)

PHILADELPHIA — Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are testing a new technique for identifying circulating genetically abnormal cells, which can lead to poor prognosis, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

These genetically abnormal cells are most likely circulating tumor cells, shed from a malignant tumor. Increased numbers of these cells were associated with relapse of disease and poorer survival, according to study results. Identifying these cells using the current FDA-approved test is quite challenging because the current test, which is based on an antibody that adheres to the surface of circulating epithelial cells, is not very sensitive.

In a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, Ruth L. Katz, M.D., professor of pathology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and her colleagues used a fluorescence in situ hybridization method for detection of genetically abnormal cells, without resorting to antibody capture.

They found that patients with non-small cell lung cancer had significantly higher levels of circulating abnormal cells than controls, and the numbers of abnormal cells increased with the stage of disease. The AACR hosted a teleconference to discuss these findings and the wider issue of circulating tumor cells in cancer research on Thursday, July 22, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the section of thoracic medical oncology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research, hosted the teleconference.

The following panelists participated:

Ruth L. Katz, M.D., professor of pathology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center: “The numbers of genetically abnormal cells in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients were far more than we had originally expected. Similar genetic abnormalities were also found to be present in the malignant cells from the patients’ lung cancers, and there were more abnormal blood cells in advanced-stage disease compared to early-stage disease.”

Fred R. Hirsch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center: “Circulating tumor cells, or genetically abnormal cells, are shed from the tumor or its microenvironment and out into the bloodstream. Although this particular technique will need validation in a larger patient subset, these are very encouraging results that provide us with a framework for moving forward.”

Minetta Liu, M.D., director of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University: “This paper is an excellent example of our efforts to personalize cancer therapeutics. An increased understanding of the nature and origins of circulating tumor cells will enable us to better assess their significance and impact. This, in turn, will improve our ability to manage patients with malignancies.

Listen to a recording of the teleconference:

Download* the mp3 of the teleconference (6.4 MB, 27 minutes and 30 seconds)
*On a PC, right mouse click on the “Download” link and select “Save link as…” in Firefox or “Save Target as…” in Internet Explorer.

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Learn more about circulating tumor cells

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 31,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(267) 646-0557

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