Sema4 identifies a Novel Biomarker to Guide Lung Cancer Treatment

Cancer research is a critical component of Sema4’s mission to advance healthcare through data-driven insights. We recently published two research papers on how such insights can be leveraged to improve treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (aNSCLC). You can read about the first of these papers, which explores the impact of race and ethnicity on treatment response, here. Today, we feature the second paper, reporting a novel biomarker to guide treatment decisions in aNSCLC patients.

Biomarkers are traits that can be measured to predict aspects of disease and wellness. For example, the presence of a particular variant in an individual’s genome could indicate how likely they are to develop a certain disease or respond to a specific drug. Sema4 uses advanced data analysis to search for these markers within large datasets, typically comprised of complex molecular profiling data. However, sometimes even the most basic clinical data can be a valuable source of biomarker information.

In our recent study, published in BMC Cancer, we analyzed data from routine clinical blood tests to identify a novel biomarker for treatment response in aNSCLC. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), such as anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 antibodies, are the standard-of-care therapy for aNSCLC. However, only a minority of patients respond to these drugs. Knowing which patients will respond can help guide more personalized treatment decisions.

Our study investigated whether results from standard laboratory tests, performed as part of a routine clinical workup, correlate with ICI response and survival. Leveraging CentrellisTM, our innovative health intelligence platform, we analyzed electronic health records from more than 11,000 lung cancer patients. We identified 249 ICI-treated aNSCLC patients and analyzed complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel data from this group.

In these patients, we found that a high neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) is associated with poor clinical outcomes, particularly when the high ratio is sustained during treatment. Low hemoglobin levels, indicative of mild anemia, were also correlated with poor survival. Furthermore, we found that a composite biomarker of high NLR plus low hemoglobin may provide meaningful clinical utility to stratify patients and guide treatment.

Our novel composite biomarker is already assessed as part of the standard laboratory workup that most cancer patients receive and, as such, could be easily adopted into clinical practice. The results may potentially suggest that treatment of anemia to raise hemoglobin levels before starting ICI therapy can improve aNSCLC patient outcomes.

The study, which warrants further investigations in larger patient cohorts and prospective clinical trials, was conducted by Dr. Kristin Ayers and colleagues, under the supervision of Sema4’s SVP of Bioinformatics R&D, Dr. Rong Chen. To learn more about another recent aNSCLC paper from this group, please see our National Cancer Research Month blog post here.

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Sema4’s advanced analytics also drive our comprehensive precision oncology solutions. Learn more here. If you would like additional information about these solutions or our oncology research, please fill out the contact form below.