The Royal Marsden

Q&A: Pleomorphic Lung Carcinoma

Dr Adam Januszewski, an Academic Clinical Fellow who is part-funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, explains why he and Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Sanjay Popat are analysing the DNA of rare lung tumours

What is pleomorphic lung carcinoma?

It is a rare type of lung cancer that occurs in less than one per cent of cases. It is associated with a poor prognosis and low survival rates; sadly for patients, current conventional treatments are generally found to be ineffective. The complexity of cancer is a constant challenge to developing effective treatments and, so far, pleomorphic lung carcinoma has not been well studied.

What has your research involved?

We analysed samples of tumours from 80 patients who had pleomorphic lung carcinoma. This is the first time such a study has been done in these numbers. We were aiming to find out new information by testing the genetic makeup of the tumours to understand the type of mutations that lead to this form of cancer. If clinicians know what mutations to test for, they can identify treatments that may be more effective for the patient.

What have you discovered so far?

I have just presented some promising initial data at this year’s World Conference on Lung Cancer. We found, for the first time, that the presence of a genetic abnormality – found in 41 per cent of the cases – changes across the tumour. This genetic abnormality has been shown, in some circumstances, to be treatable in other types of tumour.

What will your findings mean for clinical practice and further studies?

This research has given us a solid base from which we hope to increase our knowledge of pleomorphic lung carcinoma, and I anticipate that we will present more data in the next few months. Based on these findings, we recommend that clinicians test their patients to see if they have any of these treatable genetic mutations. Crucially, this new information could offer hope for patients with this rare and difficult-to-treat form of lung cancer.