Catalan Institute of Oncology, Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, Badalona, Barcelona, Spain
This review highlights the numerous molecular biology findings in the field of lung cancer with potential therapeutic impact in both the near and distant future. At least six lines of research have recently emerged as potential contributors to changes in clinical practice. Abundant pre-clinical and clinical data indicate that BRCA1 mRNA expression is a differential modulator of chemotherapy sensitivity. Low levels predict cisplatin sensitivity and antimicrotubule drug resistance, and the opposite occurs with high levels. Secondly, single nucleotide polymorphisms in the ERCC1 gene influence survival and toxicity with cisplatin-based chemotherapy. The main core of recent research has centered on EGFR mutations and gene copy numbers. For the first time, EGFR mutations have been shown to predict dramatic responses in metastatic lung adenocarcinomas, with a threefold increase in time to progression and survival in patients receiving EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. In contrast, K-ras mutations confer a negative effect in these patients. Evidence has also been accumulated on the crosstalk between estrogen and EGFR receptor pathways, paving the way for clinical trials of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors plus aromatase inhibitors. microRNAs control the expression of cognate target genes, and downregulation of Dicer has been shown to be a strong predictor of relapse in surgically resected non-small-cell lung cancer patients. Finally, overexpression of the Wingless-type (Wnt) genes and methylation of Wnt antagonists like WIF and secreted frizzled related proteins have been documented in non-small-cell lung cancer and are believed to be an important mechanism of cancer stem cell maintenance.