MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Research underway at the West Virginia University Cancer Institute may help to improve the outcomes of lung cancer patients and better guide the physicians who treat them. 

Lan Guo, Ph.D.
Lan Guo, Ph.D.

A project led by Lan Guo, Ph.D., professor in the WVU School of Public Health Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, seeks to develop a genetic test to help physicians determine which lung cancer patients, who were initially treated with surgery, will benefit from chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Dr. Guo and her lab began their project in 2006 by analyzing human genome data that is publicly available on lung cancer patients. After prognostic genes were identified from this data, she started collecting more than 350 patient samples from multiple hospitals in the U.S. to further test the expression of the genes using a technique named qRT-PCR. During the analysis of the patient samples, her team developed a seven-gene test to predict the clinical benefits of giving chemotherapy to lung cancer patients who’ve had surgery as their treatment. 

“Using the seven-gene test, we were able to predict which patients would benefit from chemotherapy and had a significantly prolonged survival time compared to those who did not receive any chemotherapy, and which patients would not benefit from chemotherapy and whose long-term post-surgical survival time was shorter compared to patients who also had surgery but did not receive any chemotherapy,” Guo said. 

Two of the 7 genes researchers identified (CD27 and ZNF71) could be useful in predicting patient outcomes and developing promising therapeutic targets in lung cancer treatment.

“The findings from our genetic test are important for providing precision medicine for lung cancer patients and offer potential therapeutic targets in both chemotherapy and immunotherapy,” Guo said.

She hopes that through further study she and her team will learn the mechanisms of some of the genetic traits found during their analysis. Those findings could lead to the development of new drugs to treat lung cancer.

Guo is working with the WVU Health Sciences Innovation Center to move the genetic test her team is developing to clinical application.  

Her research paper, “A Predictive 7-gene assay and prognostic protein biomarkers for non-small cell lung cancer,” has been accepted for publication in EBioMedicine, an online translational medicine journal published by editors based at The Lancet and at Cell Press.

Research collaborators outside of WVU include Yong Qian, Ph.D., at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown; Afshin Dowlati, M.D.; at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio; David Beer, Ph.D., and Guoan Chen, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Michigan; and Thomas Hensing, M.D., John Howington, M.D., Lin Liu, M.D., and Ujala Bokhary, M.B.B.S., at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago.