Newswise — TAMPA, Fla. – Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. Patients diagnosed with NSCLC have a poor prognosis, with a 5-year survival rate of only 16 percent. Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center hope to improve NSCLC patient survival with the results of a study that found that inherited genetic variations in interleukin genes are associated with improved patient survival and response to therapy.

Scientists use cancer biomarkers to predict a patient’s risk of developing cancer, their prognosis and response to therapy and their chance of disease recurrence. A biomarker could be a genetic mutation, the presence of a particular protein or an inherited genetic variation.

Moffitt researchers focused their attention on inherited genetic variations in genes called interleukins. They genotyped the DNA of 33 interleukin genes from 651 NSCLC patients.

“Interleukins have important roles in regulating cell growth, cell death and in the activation of the immune system,” explained Matthew Schabath, Ph.D., assistant member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at Moffitt. “Inherited genetic variations in interleukins and other genes can change their function and promote cancer development or control a patient’s response to therapy.”

The researchers discovered that patients who had certain genetic variations in interleukin genes had a better response to either surgery or chemotherapy, resulting in improvements in overall survival, disease-free survival and the amount of time until disease recurred.

This information could be used to personalize patient care in the future. “Discovery of biomarkers based on germline DNA variations represent a potentially valuable complementary strategy which could have translational implications for predicting patient outcomes and sub-classifying patients to tailored, patient-specific treatment,” said Schabath.

The genetic analysis was made possible by tissue samples available through the Total Cancer Care® Protocol at Moffitt. Total Cancer Care is a multi-institutional program involving 17 community hospitals and academic centers across the county. The goal of the program is to improve all aspects of cancer prevention and care through collaborations between patients, researchers and physicians.

Patients who enroll in the Total Cancer Care Protocol donate tissue samples and provide health information. Program coordinators and physicians follow the status and health of participating patients for life. Cancer researchers use the patient samples and information to study how cancer develops and discover better ways to treat it. Physicians use the information to improve treatment decisions and educate their patients. Currently, Total Cancer Care includes tissue samples and information from more than 50,000 patients.

The research was published in the Jan. 18 issue of Molecular Carcinogenesis, which focused on recent advances in lung cancer. Funding support for the study was received from the National Institutes of Health (P50 CA119997, 5 UC2 CA 148322–02, 1R21CA184996–01), the American Cancer Society (93–032-13), the Tissue Core Facility at Moffitt (P30-CA076292) and a James & Esther King Biomedical Research Program Grant. (09KN-15).

About Moffitt Cancer CenterLocated in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact in Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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Molecular Carcinogenesis