Researchers have discovered a new genetic test which could help predict cancer recurrence, paving the way for more precise, personalised treatments. Mitochondrial genes can be checked routinely in biopsies of patients diagnosed with various tumour types, including breast, lung, ovarian or gastric cancers. And they prove more accurate than current methods of predicting a patient’s response to treatment.
Scientists identified the new measures by looking at the expression levels of mitochondrial genes in samples from post-treatment cancer patients. “Early detection of cancer recurrence is everything; if we have information about a patient’s prognosis we can act much more effectively,” said Michael Lisanti, Professor of Translational Medicine at the University of Salford, and a co-author of the study. “You never know if cancer will return or how to prepare for that, so knowing who will and who won’t respond well to treatment offers reassurance to doctors, patients and families, and allows a degree of closer monitoring.”
Professor Lisanti who describes mitochondria as “the engine room of cancer stem cells” – the cells that cause metastasis – looked at more than 400 mitochondrial genes and found many to be more accurate in the prediction of recurrence or metastasis than standard cell proliferation markers, such as Ki67 or PCNA.