Washington: Scientists have developed a new method to classify stomach cancers which they claim may pave for more effective treatments and better survival rates.
Stomach or gastric cancer is particularly prevalent in
Asia and represents the second leading cause of cancer deaths
worldwide. The disease is resistant to chemotherapy and newer
biologic-based therapies have not proven very effective.
Now, an international team has come up with a new way
to classify stomach cancers -- in fact, it classifies gastric
cancers by the signalling pathways the tumours use to grow and
spread, as opposed to the more traditional approach.
The research, published in the `PLoS Genetics`
journal, are based upon clinical findings from patients in
Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom and represents the
largest genomic analysis of gastric cancers to date.
"We identified three oncogenic pathways that
were activated in over 70 percent of the gastric tumours we
examined. We also found that combinations of these pathways
are significantly related to patient survival," team leader
Chia Huey Ooi of Duke–National University of Singapore said.
According to the scientists, the new classification
system offers physicians the opportunity to stratify patients
according to their tumours` pathway profiles and then apply
the treatment designed to interrupt signals the pathways use.
"These findings may give us the first way to truly
offer our gastric cancer patients personalised medicine," said
team member Patrick Tan.
In fact, in their research, the scientists obtained
301 gastric tumours from three independent patient groups.
They used computational methods to map the activation levels
of 11 different cell signalling pathways already known to be
active in the development of gastric cancer.
They found that three pathways -- primary
drivers of cell growth and death (NF-kappaB, Wnt/ß-catenin and
proliferation/stem cell) were deregulated in most tumours. The
scientists found that stratifying patients by single pathways
did not predict outcomes, but stratifying them by combinations
of pathways did.
"We feel that the ability to perform `high-
throughput pathway profiling` opens up a number of interesting
possibilities. It suggests that pathway combinations, rather
than single pathways alone, may play a more critical role in
influencing tumour behaviour. We feel our findings that the
NF-kappaB pathway may be especially important, because this
pathway has been understudied in gastric cancer.
"Finally, our methods could certainly be used to study
pathway profiles in other cancers, which could lead to new
insight into tumour behaviour and outcomes," Tan said.