The role of specific genomic alterations in the aggressive nature of small cell lung cancer

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada and Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) accounts for about 25% of all cases annually. Patients diagnosed with SCLC have a very poor prognosis, with statistics indicating that only 10% of patients will survive past 5 years. This survival rate has seen little improvement over the past several decades and new targets for therapy and diagnosis of SCLC are desperately needed. SCLC is particularly challenging for researchers because samples are relatively difficult to obtain. Because the type of cell from which SCLC develops is not known, it is also difficult to define normal gene expression (RNA) levels for comparison. Bradley Coe is investigating SCLC gene expression levels by focussing on changes found in the DNA rather than in the RNA. Analysis of DNA has a significant advantage in that the source cell is not needed for establishing a baseline. Bradley is comparing the DNA profiles of SCLC cells with profiles generated from similar types of lung cancer which are less aggressive – an approach that has been made possible because of new genome comparison technology. The results of his research will include a list of genes which may contribute to the aggressiveness of SCLC. His research will also contribute to increased knowledge of the biology of SCLC, which will assist in the classification and diagnosis of this disease and in the identification of potential new targets for drug therapy.