(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Researchers at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center have just published a study uncovering new biomarkers of sensitivity and resistance to cancer therapeutics. The study, entitled “Systematic identification of genomic markers of drug sensitivity in cancer cells”, was published in the March 29 issue of Nature.

“Clinical responses to anticancer therapies are often restricted to a subset of patients. In some cases, mutated cancer genes are potent biomarkers for responses to targeted agents,” the authors wrote. In other words, anticancer drug sensitivity and resistance are often linked to cancer gene mutations.

In what the authors described as the largest study of its kind, to date, a panel of several hundred cancer cell lines, representing the majority of the tissue-type and genetic diversity that composes human cancers, was screened with 130 anti-cancer drugs that are currently under clinical and preclinical investigation.  Overall, the researchers found that mutated cancer genes were associated with cellular response to most currently available cancer drugs.

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The authors also reported unexpected results such as the revelation that there is “marked sensitivity of Ewing’s sarcoma cells harboring the EWS (also known as EWSR1)-FLI1 gene translocation to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors.”, suggesting that this class of inhibitors, which are currently used to treat breast cancer and ovarian cancer, might be used to treat the childhood bone cancer.

“Our work is helping to move cancer therapeutics away from the conventional tissue-based treatment to a more molecular-based treatment. The next steps for this collaborative project are to evaluate some of the key findings using tumor samples and test new candidate therapeutic strategies in clinical trials.” said senior author, Professor Daniel Haber, from Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Centre.