Genetic test helps optimise cancer treatment
4 December 2013
Testing a tumour for certain genes could help decide whether the
patient would benefit from receiving additional drugs with a
radiotherapy programme, according to a study by the Manchester
Cancer Research Centre.
Tumours with hypoxia — low levels of oxygen — often respond less
well to radiation therapy. There are several agents that can be
given to patients before radiotherapy to reduce hypoxia, but these
are not given as standard. Being able to measure hypoxia in a tumour
is would give doctors a valuable way of identifying which patients
might benefit from treatment with hypoxia reducing agents before
The Manchester researchers have developed a genetic profile for
tumours that should indicate the overall level of hypoxia. They gave
cancer patents two agents which in combination are known to increase
oxygenation: nicotinamide and carbogen, followed by radiotherapy and
compared the radiotherapy without the agents.
For laryngeal tumours, those classed as more hypoxic saw a
significant benefit from receiving additional agents as well as
radiation therapy. However, in bladder cancer, patients with more
hypoxic tumours did not benefit from adding extra agents.
The team tested patients’ tumour samples for 26 genes in order to
classify them as more or less hypoxic, and then analysed whether
this hypoxia score related to the results of treatment.
“Our goal is to find ways of predicting how patients will respond
to different treatments. Future cancer treatments will be
personalised so that patients get the best therapy for their
tumour.” said Professor Catharine West, who led the research.
“Personalising therapy will not only increase the number of people
surviving cancer but also decrease side-effects, as patients would
be spared from having treatments that are unlikely to work in their
Professor West added: “We will now test how the hypoxia score
works in the clinic in a trial starting in December in patients with
head and neck cancer. I have studied ways of measuring hypoxia in
tumours for many years so this is a very exciting finding that could
help us optimise how we use radiotherapy to get the best outcome for
A 26-gene hypoxia signature predicts benefit from
hypoxia-modifying therapy in laryngeal cancer but not bladder
cancer. Clinical Cancer Research 1 September 2013, 19(17): 4879-88.
doi: 10.1158/1078-0432. CCR-13-0542. "