New Genetic Analysis Technique Can Predict Possibility of Cancer Treatment Side Effects

November 18, 2020 13:05:48

Using a model developed at the Linköping University in Sweden, scientists can now predict the risk of any adverse effects on the bone marrow and blood status of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. This study may make it possible to utilize genetic analysis in identifying patients who have a high probability of side effects. The research was reported in “npj Systems Biology and Applications.”

Health practitioners find it difficult to strike a balance between not causing severe side effects during cancer treatment while simultaneously trying to eliminate as many tumor cells as possible. Tumor cells are known to grow in an uncontrolled and rapid manner. For this reason, chemotherapy treatments that are used to manage cancer have been developed to eliminate rapidly growing cells. They also kill normal cells that grow quickly.

These treatments are known to be extremely strong, with cancer patients developing severe side effects, which can result in discontinuation of treatment. For instance, the authors point out that about 25% of patients with lung cancer who get a combination treatment of the drugs carboplatin and gemcitabine experience lethal side effects on the bone marrow when standard treatment is administered. The bone marrow is a sensitive tissue where different blood cell types are created at a rapid rate.

Because it has been determined that genetic factors may have a hand in how an individual responds to these treatments, the researchers of the study looked into genetic signatures and whether they could be used to determine patients who are at a high risk of experiencing serious side effects from treatment. This would allow scientists to adjust treatment to an individual from the beginning of the treatment. That way, those who are a high risk may have another treatment administered while those at a low risk of experiencing these life-threatening side effects can have higher doses administered, which has the potential to have a major impact on the cancer.

The study is a collaboration between researchers in bioinformatics and pharmacogenetics. The researchers determined the DNA sequences of 96 patients who had been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and had been treated with carboplatin or gemcitabine. Whole genome sequencing gives data on millions of genetic variants that may be useful. The purpose of sequencing was to find out if there were gene groups that were connected to the degree of toxicity that the chemotherapy treatment had on different patients’ bone marrow.

A professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, Henrik Gréen, states that the researchers managed to show that the model they had developed is biologically relevant, in addition to predicting patients’ side effects. However, for the model to be used in clinics, the model must be tested in further studies.

A biotechnology company you should watch is CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP). This Texas-based company focuses on developing new medicines for the treatment of cancers that affect not just the brain but the central nervous system as well.

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