Researchers have identified a new biomarker linked to better outcomes for patients with head and neck cancers and non-small cell lung cancer. The work could help scientists develop new diagnostics and therapies and help physicians determine the best long-term treatments for patients with these cancers. The findings, published online by the journal Cancer, focus on a protein called Choline phosphate cytidylyltransferase-α CCT-α or CCTα, an antigen that prompts the immune system to produce antibodies.
“Based on what we found, a high CCTα expression appears to be indicative of survival, making CCTα a promising biomarker,” says Laura Niedernhofer, PhD, of the Scripps Research Institute, one of the study authors. “Our findings suggest that CCTα may, in fact, be more important in determining outcomes in patients with both types of cancer than the already established ERCC1.”
In fact, the new study turns previous studies on ERCC1 on their heads. Dozens of large clinical trials are being conducted using expression of the ERCC1 DNA-repair protein as a determinant of whether patients with lung, pancreatic, gastric, colorectal, esophageal, or ovarian cancer should be treated with platinum-based therapy, a very potent but toxic DNA-damaging agent.
However, the new research suggests that these positive results were not actually due to ERCC1, but to CCTα—which also binds to the antibody most frequently used to measure ERCC1 expression. While ERCC1 is associated with DNA repair, CCTα is involved in the synthesis of a major component of cell membranes, active in membrane-mediated signaling and embryo survival. The new results were based on an examination of samples from 187 patients with non-small cell lung cancer and 60 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Read the study abstract.