Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK have developed a genetic test that can predict whether bone cancer treatments are likely to cause neuropathy, a dangerous nerve disorder.
In a study involving 1,500 patients with multiple myeloma, researchers found that almost one-third of patients who received immune stimulating therapy thalidomide developed neuropathy, along with one-third of patients receiving chemotherapy drug vincristine.
Only 6.4% of patients whose treatment combination, however, did not include thalidomide or vincristine developed neuropathy.
Researchers analysed the DNA of the patients, searching through nearly 1,000 genes that have been linked to cancer growth and treatment response.
In patients who have been treated with thalidomide, researchers found five regions of DNA that were more common in patients who had suffered neuropathy than those who have not developed the condition.
The regions in these genes were involved in the repair, development and inflammation of the peripheral nervous system.
In patients who have been treated with vincristine, researchers found a nine different set of genes that were more common in patients who developed neuropathy.
ICR Professor Gareth Morgan said doctors could use this simple and useful test to identify patients at high risk of neuropathy.
“At-risk patients could be closely monitored, and potentially given alternative treatments, lower doses or additional therapy to reduce side-effects,” Morgan added.