Rare but important gene target found in many tumor types, suggesting new therapy possible

IMAGE: This is Stephen V. Liu, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. view more 

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Credit: Georgetown University

WASHINGTON — A consortium of researchers led by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators have completed the largest analysis of a new gene fusion they believe is responsible for development of a wide spectrum of cancer types. They say their studies show that errant gene fusions in neuregulin-1 or NRG1, which are present in about 0.2 percent of cancers, can be targeted with existing agents, although a novel therapy could effectively shut these cancers down.

The discovery, reported in Clinical Cancer Research, represents an emerging field of research in which investigators focus on targetable genes responsible for the development of cancers instead of focusing on the organ or body site in which the cancer appears. This approach is known as “tumor agnostic.”

Late last year, the FDA approved the first targeted cancer drug that is based on tumor genetics seen across many cancer types. The drug targets another gene fusion (NTRK) believed responsible for 1 percent of solid tumor cancers.

“What all cancer researchers want is to find the right treatment for the right patient, regardless of where the tumor is. The


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