A new gene test can identify patients who are more likely to suffer from aggressive forms of the childhood cancer rhabdomyosarcoma, new research published in the Clinical Cancer Research.
Examining the activity of five genes in a sample of the tumour was enough to identify high-risk children who might benefit from more intensive treatment or from new therapies in clinical trials. The findings could open up the opportunity for doctors to prescribe personalised treatment for children with cancer depending on the gene activity of their tumours.
The test is the first to be able to predict accurately which children with a type of rhabdomyosarcoma called 'fusion-negative' will have more aggressive forms of the disease.
Children with fusion-negative tumours lack a particular genetic defect often found in rhabdomyosarcoma that results in two genes, called PAX3 and FOXO1, becoming fused together.
Rhabdomyosarcoma - the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children and adolescents - looks like muscle tissue, and its severity depends on various factors including where in the body it developed.
Previous work has shown that fusion-negative patients generally have a lower risk of developing aggressive disease than fusion-positive cases.
But in the new study, researchers showed that the MG5 test splits fusion-negative patients into two distinct groups, based on the activity of the five genes. Patients with high scores have significantly worse survival chances than those with low scores, suggesting the test could ultimately be included in assessment of children with rhabdomyosarcoma to decide the best treatment option.
"This study is an important step towards introducing an approach that identifies children who are unlikely to benefit from current, standard treatments and can be offered more intensive or new treatment strategies that will improve their outcome," Professor Janet Shipley at The Institute of Cancer Research, London said.
"We now hope to bring our test for this gene signature to the clinic as soon as possible. Our aim is to identify these high-risk cases of rhabdomyosarcoma more quickly in the clinic, and ultimately improve treatment for these children."
Based on material originally posted by Institute of Cancer Research.