Back in 2017, a team of scientists conducted a study that demonstrated that blood serum calorimetry can be used to effectively indicate the chemotherapeutic efficacy in lung cancer. This discovery may help to improve patient's response to chemotherapy, increase treatment efficacy, and raise survival rates.
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The limitations of current lung cancer treatments
Lung cancer has the highest mortality rates of all types of cancer worldwide. The reason for this is that lung cancer is often not diagnosed until it has developed into more advanced stages when it has usually already metastasized and spread to other organs.
Once cancer has reached this stage, treatment options are almost limited to chemotherapy or targeted therapy.
During the treatment process, it is currently difficult to assess exactly how effective chemotherapy treatments are.
Methods such as radiological scanning often rely on regularly obtaining and assessing images of the tumor distribution, which can be subject to human error. It is also difficult to identify and monitor small changes in radiological images.
A research team in Poland sought to establish a new method to objectively measure the efficacy of chemotherapy treatment in lung cancer.
They recognized the attractiveness of developing a technique that relied on the assessment of blood samples, given their ease of access. However, the team faced the challenge of a lack of established lung cancer biomarkers, meaning that the team did not know what they should be measuring.
Searching for a biomarker
Proteins are considered a good starting point in the search for biomarkers of lung cancer, as many proteins available in blood serum, have already been identified as reliable markers of various types of cancer, and they have been used as measures of treatment efficacy.
The presence of cancer in the body can cause specific epigenetic changes that lead to characteristic changes in the profiles of proteins in the blood.
To determine whether treatment is working or not, physicians can monitor how these profiles are changing. When treatment is working, the number of abnormally expressed proteins is expected to fall.
Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a relatively new method of disease monitoring and diagnostics. This method was chosen by the team to analyze blood samples taken from a group of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and a control group of healthy individuals.
The team followed the usual method for determining markers of disease in the blood serum using DSC. They compared the denaturation curves obtained from the patient group with those obtained from the control group.
The differences between denaturation curves denote protein abnormalities, which are linked with the disease.
The heat treatment applied to the blood samples during DSC drew out patterns of protein expression that were linked to NSCLC, making it possible to use these protein expressions as markers of disease.
The profiles of both unligated albumin and immunoglobulins showed a peak at specific temperatures.
The results showed that blood serum microcalorimetry was able to differentiate metastatic lung cancer patients that respond well to chemotherapy from those who did not.
Researchers found that if the tested chemotherapy drugs are effective, the DSC curve of serum proteins begins to look like the DSC profile of healthy individuals.
Moreover, the serum DSC curve of chemotherapeutically non-responding patients are notably different from those of the healthy or responding patients.
It is expected that future methods will be based on tracking the expression profiles in order to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
If physicians know that the patient is not responding well to the treatment, this will give them the chance to amend treatment plans sooner rather than later, so this will hopefully improve the survival rates of lung cancer.
- Kędra-Królik, K., Chmielewska, I., Michnik, A. et al. Blood Serum Calorimetry Indicates the Chemotherapeutic Efficacy in Lung Cancer Treatment. Sci Rep 7, 16796 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17004-x