When Fluff Isn’t Enough
February 8, 2011 1 Comment
Recent press coverage from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) touched upon the development of multi-gene predictors for clinical response in breast cancer. One report from that meeting described correlations between a laboratory assay model in use at the University of Pittsburgh and microarray analyses. However, the suggestion that this laboratory technique — described by its proponents as a chemosensitivity assay — could accurately identify gene profiles that would predict response seems at odds with the current literature.
Although the press coverage concluded that this technique showed “promising performance” it was largely exploratory and defined by the authors as a “validation study.” What is interesting is that a team of highly reputable investigators from M.D. Anderson recently reported a very negative study using a similar approach of identifying target genes in cell lines and then correlating them with patient outcomes. In the paper, published in the June 2010 issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment (Liedtke, C. et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Jun; 121(2):301-9) the authors reported “cell line derived predictors of response to four commonly used chemotherapy drugs did not predict response accurately in patients.”
Indeed, differential gene expression seemed only to correlate with paclitaxel. The authors found that false discovery rates were high for all other drugs tested. Thus, the report from the SABCS will need to be carefully examined to determine whether truly relevant clinically predictive information can be provided by this particular laboratory platform.