A genetic test appears to help predict how well people with a form of brain cancer will respond to standard chemotherapy drugs.
Doctors from Johns Hopkins University found that victims of aggressive brain tumors called gliomas do better if they have a particular form of a gene that helps the body repair DNA damage.
Testing for that gene type could help doctors tailor cancer treatment. Doctors say the same gene may play a role in patients' response to treatment for other forms of malignancy, including lymphoma and cancer of the lung, colon and head and neck.
The study was published in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and financed by the National Cancer Institute. Hopkins has licensed the test to Virco Lab Inc. of Baltimore, which plans to make it available next year.
The test reveals whether a gene called MGMT has been chemically changed through a process called methylation. People whose MGMT genes are altered that way respond much better to carmustine and similar chemotherapy drugs.
In the study, doctors checked 47 glioma patients. Nineteen of them had the altered form of the gene, and 12 of the 19 had significant responses to chemotherapy. Among the 28 who had the ordinary form of the gene, only one responded to treatment.
Those with the altered MGMT gene lived an average of 13 months longer than the other patients.
On the Net:
The New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org/content/index.asp