For the first time, USC researchers have identified specific genetic variations that predict clinical outcomes in patients with gastric (stomach) cancer.
Genetic variations within the CD44 gene may be responsible for early tumor recurrence and metastasis, according to Thomas Winder, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the lead author of the study.
Patients with the genetic variations experience cancer recurrence more than three times sooner than patients without the variations, the investigators found.
Winder presented the findings during a news briefing at the American Society of Clinical Oncology symposium. The symposium will be held Jan. 22-24 in Orlando, Fla.
“If our findings are confirmed in larger, prospective clinical trials, testing for the CD44 genetic variations could help us to identify patients at high risk who might benefit from more aggressive treatment,” Winder said. “CD44 might also be a potential target for drug development to individualize therapeutic strategies.”
A major function of the CD44 gene is its role in cellular adhesion — the loss of which is associated with cancer development — and cell migration. Genetic variations may impact cell survival and proliferation, as well as making cancer cells more resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Winder and his colleagues isolated DNA samples from 137 patients with localized gastric cancer treated at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They analyzed the association between the presence of CD44 genetic variations and the time to recurrence.
The investigators found that patients who had the CD44 mutation had a significantly shorter time to recurrence (2.1 years) compared to those without this mutation (seven years).
“Additional studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results,” Winder said. “However, this is a very promising development in understanding and predicting outcomes for patients with gastric cancer.”
The study was funded by the Dhont Family Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
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