A project to investigate how lung cancer patients might better respond to personalised therapy may improve survival rates and quality of life.
The project, led by Garvan Institute of Medical Research scientist Dr Amelia Parker, will go ahead thanks to funding from Cancer Australia.
Over two years, Dr Parker will test whether a protein in lung cancer tissue can be used to identify high-risk patients and predict their response to therapy.
“Squamous lung cancer makes up 40% of all lung cancers, yet treatment options for this subtype are limited with a five-year survival rate of less than 20%,” says Dr Parker.
The project builds on Dr Parker’s recent cancer discoveries, bringing together researchers and clinicians from the Garvan Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Woolcock Institute to leverage Garvan’s capabilities and expertise in imaging, state-of-the-art spatial omics technologies, cancer cell biology and advanced lung cancer models.
Personalising treatment for high-risk lung cancer
Survival rates for squamous lung cancer have only marginally improved in recent decades and at present treatment options for patients are limited. Dr Parker’s work has identified specific changes in proteins in the lung that might help lung cancer cells to spread throughout the body, enabling cancer to return months or years after treatment.
Dr Parker will study how these protein changes drive tumour progression. Along with the Matrix and Metastasis Team at Garvan, she will also investigate if a new biomarker could be used to predict whether a patient is at risk of their disease returning.
This will allow the development of a precision medicine strategy for lung cancer patients, where clinicians could identify which lung cancer patients are at high risk of developing the aggressive form, and which treatments might be the most effective.
“Our work could develop the first indicator of squamous lung cancer risk and prognosis. This would allow us to avoid the current ‘watch and wait’ approach used now, which profoundly affects patients’ quality of life,” says Dr Parker.
Dr Parker’s research has also uncovered a potential way to block the tumour-promoting effects of these lung changes. She will now test whether the repurposing of an already approved drug can be used to develop a more effective, individualised treatment for squamous lung cancer patients.
Dr Amelia Parker is a Conjoint Associate Lecturer at St Vincent’s Clinical School, UNSW Medicine and Health.