Vanderbilt Lung Cancer Trial for Never Smokers Goes Online
One of the mysteries of lung cancer is why many people who have never smoked to develop the disease. More than 219,000 patients are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 20,000 – one in 10 – never smoked snuff. Most patients are women.
Since exposure to snuff is the principal known risk factor for lung cancer, researchers believe that genetic differences may make some of these non smokers more likely to develop the disease.
William Pao, MD, Ph.D., associate director of the Cancer Personalized Medicine, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, is inviting and non-smoking patients with lung cancer to join a web based clinical trials to look for genetic differences .
“Our goal is to examine the DNA of blood samples or saliva, as part of a future genome-wide association study,” said Pao, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research. “You can see more than half a million DNA areas where people may be different. When we begin to see patterns in the DNA of patients and never smokers, we can look more closely and try to identify genetic mutations that can be important in the process of lung disease.
Pao and his colleagues hope to gather 2,000 samples of DNA from non-smokers with lung cancer, which is defined as having lung cancer and smoking less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Since a single cancer center is not never enough patients with lung cancer in smokers a year to assemble a large number of specimens, Pao went to the web to recruit patients.
“We believe this is the first study in a solid tumor cancer to try to collect blood samples through an online process,” said Pao. “Patients can go to our website, fill out a simple electronic questionnaire, and if you qualify for the clinical trial we will send two empty blood vials. The next time you visit your doctor for a blood draw can be obtained those vials and sent to us via UPS and we will pay the postage. For patients who can not get blood drawn, there is also an option of using saliva samples. ”
To protect patient privacy, the DNA samples are identified when entering the Vanderbilt-Ingram DNA data bank, a secure database to prevent tracking samples to a specific donor.
“There may be some genetic susceptibility among nonsmokers with lung cancer which makes them more likely to develop the disease,” said Pao. “They are not necessarily born with a predetermination to be lung cancer, but that may be born with certain genes that predispose them if exposed to certain environmental toxins.”
Pao and lung cancer researchers feel a sense of urgency, as they still do not know enough about the genetic pathways that are important in the development and spread of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, less than 20 percent of patients with lung cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
“More than half of all lung cancer patients are diagnosed at an incurable stage, so we’re already on the losing side of the battle with too many patients at the time of cancer detection,” said Pao.
“Eventually, this type of study can help identify the gene targets that allow us to develop simple blood tests to detect cancer early. The same objectives could be used to develop drugs that block or interfere with the disease process.
For more information, visit http://www.vicc.org/neversmokers
Provided by Vanderbilt Medical Center
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