New DNA Testing May Improve Lung Cancer Treatment

Female scientist taking a sample in a lab

Massachusetts-based cancer diagnostics company Foundation Medicine, Inc., announced that a new high-speed DNA scan using the company’s comprehensive cancer genomic test will be made available mid-2012.

The test matches genetic abnormalities insides tumors with drugs that are designed to attack the abnormalities. The result is a treatment plan that can be tailored to the precise mutation in an individual’s DNA, making treatment options more effective and personalized.

Studies show that this type of testing may be especially helpful to patients with lung cancer, a cancer that kills more people in the United States than any other cancer.

Bloomberg reported that the genetic test found mutations in 71 percent of lung cancer tumors that can be attacked with specific cancer drugs that are currently in clinical trials or already on the market.

The DNA scan also has the potential to find a drug that may be effective against one type of cancer even if it was created to fight another.

After Foundation Medicine researchers found a previously unknown genetic flaw in 2 percent of 561 lung cancer tumors, they matched it with Pfizer’s kidney-cancer drug Sutent and AstraZeneca’s thyroid-cancer drug Caprelsa. After being treated with either drug, the abnormal cells died.

Several drug companies including Pfizer and AstraZeneca are taking notice of the new technology. There are hundreds of cancer drugs currently in clinical trials, and Foundation Medicine’s new technology can potentially target individuals who would benefit from a specific drug before the drugs are even on the market.

MIT’s Technology Review reported that Foundation Medicine has been working on this test for over a decade, and recently made strides in developing its product after the cost of DNA decoding dropped substantially and new data on cancer genetics was made available.

The cost to ship tumor samples to Foundation Medicine and have 200 cancer genes sequenced is about $5,000. The cost is predicted to drop as technology becomes more affordable.

Third Rock Ventures and Google Ventures are among the company’s top investors.


Mark Hall joined the Mesothelioma Center as a writer in 2011. Prior to joining the content team, Mark graduated from the University of Florida and then spent several years writing about business, entrepreneurship and technology for various online publications.

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