Targeting Lung Cancer Genomics: A Whole Genome Approach to Predicting Drug Response

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with five-year survival rates among the lowest for commonly diagnosed cancers. The high mortality rate is partially due to the lack of effective treatment options since surgery and chemotherapy are common options, yet non-curative. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is overexpressed in a majority of lung cancers. Researchers recently discovered a new drug designed to target the product of this gene. Although the drug didn’t benefit the majority of patients, a positive response was often seen in non-smoking women of Asian descent. At the BC Cancer Research Centre, Trevor Pugh is researching why this drug works for this subgroup and not for other patients. Using tumour samples and patient outcomes data, he is searching across the entire genome to pinpoint specific genetic features shared by drug-responsive tumours in patients with lung cancer. Ultimately, his work could result in improved diagnostic tests for predicting who will benefit from specific therapies, and new candidates for gene-targeted cancer drugs.