Genome study reveals new insights into lung cancer

November 14th, 2007 - 8:28 am ICT by admin  
The research, involving dozens of research centres worldwide, also revealed more than 50 genomic regions that are frequently gained or lost in lung adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer.

According to the authors, the massive DNA study sheds significant light on the biological basis of lung cancer and will help shape new strategies for treatment.

“This view of the lung cancer genome is unprecedented, both in its breadth and depth. It lays an essential foundation, and has already pinpointed an important gene that controls the growth of lung cells. This information offers crucial inroads to the biology of lung cancer and will help shape new strategies for cancer diagnosis and therapy,” Nature quoted senior author Matthew Meyerson, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard and MIT, as saying.

The new study centres on lung adenocarcinoma, which accounts for just under a third of all lung cancer cases.

The study, which is a part of the international Tumour Sequencing Project, looked for abnormalities in the DNA of more than 500 tumours from lung cancer patients.

Most human cancers branch mainly from DNA changes that mount up in cells through a person’s life, but the nature of these changes, and their consequences, has remained largely mysterious.

The scientists used advanced technologies to scan the human genome for markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that underline missing or duplicate sections of genetic code.

The team uncovered a total of 57 genomic changes that occur frequently in cancer patients. Of these, at least 40 are associated with genes not previously known to be involved in lung adenocarcinoma.

The genetic abnormality that turned up the most frequently implicates a gene called NKX2.1 as an accelerator of cancer cell growth. NKX2.1 normally acts as a “master regulator” that controls the activity of other genes in cells lining tiny air sacs in lungs called alveoli.

The discovery that a gene functioning in a particular group of cells can promote cancer growth could help scientists design drugs to fight not just lung cancer but a wide range of cancers, the researchers said.

In addition, the use of powerful tools and technologies to sequence the genomes of lung cancer patients “represents a general approach that can and should be used to analyse all types of cancer,” said co-author Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The study is published in the advance online issue of the journal Nature. (ANI)

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