Radiation therapy and chemotherapy that can destroy tumours also can damage surrounding healthy tissue.

“So with an appropriate test, patients could avoid getting additional radiation or chemotherapy treatment they may not need,” said Jerry Shay, a professor at University of Texas' Southwestern Medical Center in the US.

For the study, the researchers looked at gene expression changes in mice and applied them to humans with early stage cancer.

The results revealed a breakdown of which patients have a high or low chance of survival.

They closely monitored lung cancer development in mice after irradiation and found that some types of irradiation resulted in an increase in invasive, more malignant tumours.

They examined the gene expression changes in mice well before some of them developed advanced cancers.

The genes in the mouse that correlated with poor outcomes were then matched with human genes.

As they compared the predictive signatures from the mice with more than 700 human cancer patient signatures, the overall survivability of the patients correlated with the predictive signature in the mice.

Thus, the classifier that predicted invasive cancer in mice also predicted poor outcomes in humans.

The study looked at adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer in the air sacks that afflicts both smokers and non-smokers.

The findings also predicted overall survival in patients with early-stage breast cancer and thus offer the same helpful information to breast cancer patients.

The study appeared in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.


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