East Asian expatriates could soon be able to use international health insurance policies to receive more effective cancer treatments, following a study that revealed a genetic variation in this demographic could reveal why some of these individuals fail to respond to certain drugs.
The research, published in Nature Medicine, was led by scientists at the Duke National University of Singapore Medical School, working alongside the Genome Institute of Singapore, as well as the country's general hospital and cancer centre.
It involved an analysis of the effectiveness of tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs (TKIs).
These medicines fight conditions such as non-small-cell lung cancers involving a mutation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene, as well as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
When they work properly, they shut down certain molecular pathways that the cancer uses to spread.
However, scientists realised a variation in the BIM gene can contribute to the failure of some individuals to respond to TKIs, with this more commonplace in people of East Asian descent.
Around 15 per cent of the typical populace of this region has this genetic variant, although no individuals of African or European ancestry have been found to have it.
Senior author of the study S Tiong Ong noted when BH3-mimetics were utilised alongside TKI therapy during tests, "we were able to overcome the resistance conferred by the gene".
"Our next step will be to bring this to clinical trials with patients," he added.
The specialist remarked that around 14,000 individuals suffering from EGFR non-small-cell lung cancer and CML will have the BIM gene variant.
Furthermore, around 50 per cent of all East Asian non-small-cell lung cancers are EGFR-related, compared with ten per cent in Western countries, Mr Ong added.
Symptoms of this condition include shortness of breath and a persistent cough, as well as blood in mucus, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, tiredness and wheezing.
The development of the ailment is linked to tobacco, radiation, pollution or asbestos exposure.