A study to find out more about biomarkers in small cell cancer

Cancer type:

Lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer

Status:

Results

Phase:

Other

This study looked at biomarkers in tissue samples, and in the blood of people with small cell cancer. A biomarker is a substance in the body that doctors can measure, which helps them tell how a disease is developing or a treatment is working. This study was supported by Cancer Research UK.

Genes are coded messages that tell a cell how to behave and grow. Doctors may use certain genes or proteins in cancer cells as biomarkers.

Small cell cancer is called ‘small cell’ because under a microscope the cells appear small. It most often affects the lungs (small cell lung cancer), but can also start in other parts of the body such as the food pipe (oesophagus) or the cervix.

In this study, the researchers wanted to look at the biomarkers in small cell cancer to see if they could help them to

  • Decide which treatments to use
  • Work out why treatment sometimes doesn’t work
  • Develop new treatments

Summary of results

The study team found that they could use a biomarker in the blood of people with small cell lung cancer who were having treatment.

This study recruited 97 people who had small cell lung cancer. Everyone gave a blood sample before starting chemotherapy.

The study team counted the number of cancer cells in the blood samples. These are called circulating tumour cells (CTCs).

Of these 97 people, 77 had CTCs. These 77 people were put into 2 groups. Those who had

  • A low number of CTCs in their blood sample
  • A high number of CTCs in their blood sample

The team then looked at how long it was before their cancer came back. The average amount of time was

  • Just over 4½ months for those with high CTCs
  • Nearly 9 months for those with low CTCs

They also looked at the average amount of time people lived. It was

  • Just under 5½ months for those with high CTCs
  • 11½ months for those with low CTCs

53 people had a blood sample taken after their 1st cycle of chemotherapy. When the researchers looked at the number of CTCs, they found that in

  • 43 people they had fallen
  • 2 people they had increased
  • 9 people there was no change

The team also counted the number of times there were more than 3 individual cancer cells grouped together in the blood samples. These are called circulating tumour microemboli (CTM). On average they found that people with CTMs in their blood didn’t live as long and their cancer came back sooner than those who didn’t have CTMs in their blood.      

The study team concluded that CTCs could be used as a biomarker for people who are having treatment for small cell lung cancer.  

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Fiona Blackhall

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
European Union FP7
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
The Christie Lung Cancer Research Fund

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 1254

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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