Caring Currents

New Research May Predict Risk of Cancer Recurrence

Last updated: Mar 18, 2008

Hopkins team.jpg

If a test existed that could tell you whether your loved one's cancer was curable or was particularly likely to recur within the next five years, would you want to know?

Two teams of cancer researchers have made discoveries that, if they pan out, could provide a crystal ball to predict which cancers are most likely to spread, and provide an answer to every cancer patient's $64,000 question: Will I be cured, or will the cancer come back?

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have discovered genetic markers, clearly visible in tissue samples, that can identify which early-stage lung tumors are likely to recur within 5 years.
  • A team of scientists based in the Life Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered that a naturally occurring protein known as SATB1 appears to have the power to reprogram breast cancer tumors, turning them into the aggressive type that metastasize, or spread.

While both discoveries are still in an early stage of research, both have clear potential to lead to new diagnostic tools as well as new approaches to treatment. Patients whose lung tumors show the molecular "flags" identified by the Hopkins team or whose breast tumors test positive for SATB1 might be reclassified as high-risk and treated as such. Such knowledge could be powerful -- and scary.

Would you want to know, even if the news wasn't good?

Photo: Malcolm Brock, MD, and his team at Johns Hopkins; image used under the Creative Commons attribution license.