DZL scientist Prof. Dr. Petros Christopoulos receives the 2022 Science Award of the German Cancer Society's Working Group for Internal Oncology (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internistische Onkologie, AIO). His groundbreaking study has provided important insights into a molecular risk factor and the role of the tumor microenvironment in lung cancer. These could significantly contribute to the development of new individualized therapeutic approaches.
Researchers from the Thorax Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital and the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg have studied a rare form of lung cancer that is particularly difficult to treat due to a specific mutation. The mutation, known as EGFR exon 20 insertion, occurs in only about one to two percent of non-small cell lung cancers. Patients with this mutation often have a poor prognosis and do not respond well to conventional treatments.
In the award-winning study, the scientists were able to identify a molecular risk factor that influences the response and survival probability of patients with metastatic tumors. The researchers found that mutations in the TP53 gene reduce the effectiveness of certain tumor therapies (EGFR inhibitors and platinum-containing chemotherapy). This discovery could now help to develop new targeted therapy approaches for patients with this rare mutation.
The researchers also studied the so-called tumor microenvironment. They found that patients survived longer when there was a higher ratio of certain immune cells in the tumor. In contrast, other tumor drugs (PD-(L)1 inhibitors, angiogenesis inhibitors or pemetrexed) did not affect disease progression. These findings underscore the need to develop new therapeutic strategies for this rare form of lung cancer.
The award-winning study is the result of a successful interdisciplinary collaboration between twelve leading lung cancer centers in Germany. Michael Thomas, Head of the Department of Oncology in the Thorax Clinic at Heidelberg University Hospital and at the National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg, emphasizes the importance of this collaboration for progress in cancer research and the development of new therapeutic approaches for the benefit of patients: "The results of our study also show how important successful interdisciplinary, cross-center national collaboration is for progress for the benefit of patients."
Christopoulos P, Kluck K, Kirchner M, Lüders H, Roeper J, Falkenstern-Ge RF, Szewczyk M, Sticht F, Saalfeld FC, Wesseler C, Hackanson B, Dintner S, Faehling M, Kuon J, Janning M, Kauffmann-Guerrero D, Kazdal D, Kurz S, Eichhorn F, Bozorgmehr F, Shah R, Tufman A, Wermke M, Loges S, Brueckl WM, Schulz C, Misch D, Frost N, Kollmeier J, Reck M, Griesinger F, Grohé C, Hong JL, Lin HM, Budczies J, Stenzinger A, Thomas M. The impact of TP53 co-mutations and immunologic microenvironment on outcome of lung cancer with EGFR exon 20 insertions. Eur J Cancer. 2022 Jul;170:106-118. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2022.04.020. Epub 2022 May 20. PMID: 35598358.