Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Being able to predict that a patient will adversely react to a drug that's meant to be treating them is a key aim of personalised medicine, and could help to improve the patient's overall treatment.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide are now one step closer to accurately predicting which cancer patients will experience severe toxicity from chemotherapy.

In a pilot study involving 34 patients, researchers looked at specific genetic variations in the patients' immune system, and compared that with information about the types of cancer each patient had.

The researchers then produced a model that was able to predict – with more than 87% accuracy – the risk of patients having severe toxicity to their chemotherapy treatments.

"This is the first time that immune genetic factors have been used to predict the risk of toxicity for patients. While much more work still needs to be done to test and finalise this model, we're very pleased with the results so far," says Dr Janet Coller from the University's School of Medical Sciences, who is lead author of the study, published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.

Dr Coller says there are two specific genetic variations in the immune system that appear to play a role: a cell-signalling protein known as Tumor necrosis factor alpha, and a protein called Toll-like receptor 2.

"At this stage we're not entirely sure how these genetic variants lead to increases in a person's toxicity to chemotherapy, and it warrants further investigation," Dr Coller says.

"But we have a strong indication that genetic variation is playing a role, and it is something that we could potentially test for in the future. We're excited about the results because at the moment there is no way of telling a patient how likely they are to experience toxicity from chemotherapy drugs.

"Knowing this information will be vital in understanding whether or not certain patient groups need additional therapeutic support to help minimise severe toxic reactions," she says.

The next studies are already underway to validate the current results. Dr Coller is also currently seeking healthy people aged 18-65 to take part in similar studies, so that their genetics can be compared with people who are taking other medicines. For more information or to join, call Dr Janet Coller on 8313 3906, or email:[email protected]

This research is supported by the Australian Dental Research Foundation Inc. and the Ray and Shirl Norman Cancer Research Trust.

Media Contact:

Dr Janet Coller
Senior Lecturer
School of Medical Sciences

The University of Adelaide
Mobile: +61 (0)419 856 364
[email protected]

Kate Bourne
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8313 3173
Mobile: +61 (0)457 537 677
[email protected]


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