Newswise — Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center will present breakthrough research in a number of researchstudy areas at the 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. Researchers are also available at the meeting to provide expert commentary on cancer research. Colorectal Cancer: * A study led by Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, tested for the first time gene variations which have been recently shown to be associated with colon cancer development, and whether these genes are associated with clinical outcomes in colorectal cancer. The study is the first to explore the association between these variants and clinical outcomes for patients with both adjuvant and metastatic colorectal cancer. "We were able to show for the first time that genes associated with colon cancer risk may also predict outcome in patients who develop colon cancer," Lenz says. "These data are critical for the development of preventive and therapeutic strategies." Researchers pooled data collected from 515 patients with locally advanced and metastatic colorectal cancer. They identified colorectal cancer susceptibility on several chromosomes, suggesting that cancer risk alleles may also be associated with clinical outcome in adjuvant and metastatic colorectal cancer. The findings will be presented in a general poster session on Sunday, May 31. (Abstract # 4051) Lenz will also participate in an education session at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 1 on established biomarkers guiding treatment decisions in colorectal cancer. Lung Cancer: A study led by Wu Zhang, M.D., research scientist at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, found that the genetic makeup of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) predicted tumor response and overall survival when treated with the drug Bevacizumab, also known as Avastin.

In a randomized phase III study, researchers found that genetic variants in the angiogenesis pathway predicted patient's' tumor response, progression-free survival and overall survival when treated with Bevacizumab as compared with those treated with traditional chemotherapy only.

"This study could have a major impact on patient treatment," Wu says. "Oncologists could select the personalized treatment for patients based on their genetic makeup." Wu will present the findings during a poster discussion on metastatic lung cancer on Monday, June 1, 11:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m. (Abstract # 8032). Pancreas and Esophageal Cancers: In two separate studies, USC Norris researchers found that gender, age and ethnicity are associated with pancreas cancer survival, and that gender and age are associated with overall survival in patients with esophageal cancer. In the first major study to address gender and survival in pancreas cancer, researchers found that women had a significantly longer survival among patients with localized pancreatic cancer, and that each age group displayed a significantly longer survival rate than its correspondent older age group. The data suggests that the estrogen pathway may play an important role in the progression of the disease. Further study is needed to explore the mechanisms of estrogen and pancreas progression. (Abstract # e1587). Another study showing gender as an independent prognostic factor in patients with localized and metastatic esophageal cancer, researchers found that women had significantly better overall survival rate than males. A total of 21,584 patients were screened and divided into age at diagnosis, sex and ethnicity.

The findings suggest that sex hormone pathways may have a potential impact on tumor progression. The data warrant further studies to explore the role of these pathways in the diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer, researchers say. The study will be presented in a general poster session on Sunday, May 31. (Abstract # 4541).

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 39 centers in the United States designated as "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute. USC Norris researchers are leaders in basic research on the origins and prevention of cancer and the development of novel therapies for the disease. The USC Norris Cancer Hospital, one of a few hospitals dedicated exclusively to treating cancer patients, offers advanced treatments in an intimate setting designed for inpatient and outpatient care.