Research Summary: Identifying Tumor Genomic Changes in Lung Cancers

Grant Recipient: Dr. Rebecca Heist
Title of Project: Identifying Tumor Genomic Changes in Lung Cancers
Sponsoring Institution: Massachusetts General Hospital (The General Hospital Corp.)

The treatment of lung cancer has been revolutionized by the discovery of specific targeted therapies such as erlotinib or gefitinib for EGFR-mutated lung cancer and crizotinib for ALK-translocated lung cancer. These successes have taught us that lung cancer is not just one disease, but a multitude of different diseases, best defined by the specific tumor genetic changes that are driving tumor growth and that can serve as targets for therapy. At Massachusetts General Hospital, we have been performing tumor genetic testing via SNaPshot, a panel of known oncogenic mutations, since 2009. We have found that approximately 40% of our patients do not have an identifiable mutation. For these patients, identifying what tumor genetic changes are driving their cancer will be critical to develop effective targeted therapy. This proposal therefore is focused on those patients who did not have an identifiable tumor mutation, with the hope that we can discover new targets for effective therapy. We plan to do this by two methods: First, we will perform whole exome sequencing, i.e. sequencing the coding regions of the tumor genome, on the tumors of patients who did not have any identifiable tumor mutations. Second, we will screen for chromosomal rearrangements involving tyrosine kinases. Tyrosine kinases are of particular interest in cancer, as they play a role in cell growth and proliferation, and more importantly are potentially “druggable.” With this two-pronged approach, we hope to identify novel tumor-related genetic changes that will lead to new targeted therapies for lung cancer.