PHILADELPHIA (November 24, 2017) – Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have identified two new subtypes of laryngeal cancer, each of which indicates different survival outcomes for patients. The researchers analyzed molecular and clinical data from hundreds of head and neck cancer patients available in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), and applied computational algorithms that simultaneously analyzed several molecular features, such as gene expression, mutations, chromosomal abnormalities, and DNA methylation. These findings, which for the first time linked better survival to mutations damaging the genes NSD1 and NSD2, were validated in an independent cohort of patients treated at Fox Chase and Johns Hopkins. The results from this study appear in the journal Nature Communications.
The findings may make it possible for physicians treating patients with laryngeal cancer to recommend treatments that have the greatest chance of being effective, and avoid ones that are less likely to work.
“We were able to use sophisticated bioinformatics tools to leverage the massive molecular and patient data available in TCGA, to generate new insights into this difficult disease. An exciting and unexpected finding is that this result is specific to laryngeal cancer, but not other forms of head and neck cancer,” said Suraj Peri, PhD, assistant research professor at Fox Chase, and lead author of the study.
Typically, most head and neck cancers are considered as one group. The next steps, now underway, are to explore the molecular basis for improved survival among laryngeal cancer patients with mutations in NSD genes, and to translate the findings into clinical practice. “Collaboration between Fox Chase and Johns Hopkins allowed us to establish a unique laryngeal cancer patient cohort, which is critical for future preclinical studies,” said Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer at Fox Chase, and senior investigator of this study.
“Selecting treatments based on these newly recognized biomarkers has potential to identify strong candidates for organ preservation paradigms that may offer patients superior survival and quality of life while sparing them adverse side effects and treatment-related complications," said John Ridge, MD, PhD, chief of head and neck surgery and Louis Della Penna Family Chair in Head and Neck Oncology at Fox Chase.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 13,360 new cases of laryngeal cancer diagnosed in the United States this year, and 3,660 deaths caused by the disease.