Study finds switch that lets early lung cancer grow unchecked

Cellular change thought to happen only in late-stage cancers to help tumors spread also occurs in early-stage lung cancer as a way to bypass growth controls, say researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida. The finding, reported in the July 11 issue of Science Translational Medicine, represents a new understanding of the extent of transformation that lung cancer — and likely many other tumor types — undergo early in disease development, the scientists say. They add that the discovery also points to a potential strategy to halt this process, known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, or EMT.

"Our study points to EMT as a key step in progression during the earliest stages of cancer development," says lead investigator and cancer biologist Derek Radisky, Ph.D.

"Normal cells recognize when they are dividing too rapidly, and turn on programs that block inappropriate cell division. Here we found that early-stage lung cancer cells switch on EMT in order to bypass these controls," he says.

The discovery could offer a new way to prevent progression to late-stage lung cancer, possibly by inhibiting a particular molecule from functioning, Dr. Radisky says.

Because EMT is a well-recognized late-stage transition that occurs in all sorts of solid tumors, the researchers say they believe that the same early-stage use of EMT they found in lung cancer is likely occurring in other cancers.

EMT is a biological process used in embryonic development to allow body development, which requires the ability of cells and tissues to morph from one type to another, and develop in an orchestrated fashion.

Late-stage cancer uses EMT to change cells into a form that can migrate through blood.

"The gaps in our knowledge of lung cancer have not allowed us to develop more effective targeted therapies," Dr. Radisky says. "This study offers us great new clues for a new approach to treating lung and possibly other cancers as early as possible."

Related Stories

New clues to how cancer spreads

date Jun 27, 2011

Cancer cells circulating in the blood carry newly identified proteins that could be screened to improve prognostic tests and suggest targets for therapies, report scientists at the Duke Cancer Institute.

Metastasis of pancreatic cancer in action

date Jan 19, 2012

Ben Stanger, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Andrew Rhim, MD, a Gastroenterology Fellow in the ...

Recommended for you

Live imaging reveals how wound healing influences cancer

date 10 minutes ago

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Denmark have studied the "see-through" larvae of zebrafish to reveal how wound healing leads to skin cancer. Live imaging shows neutrophils, the protective inflammatory cells of the body's ...

Protein's impact on colorectal cancer is dappled

date 14 hours ago

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a cell signaling pathway that appears to exert some control over initiation and progression of colorectal cancer, the ...

Colon cancer: Taking a step back to move forward

date 23 hours ago

Recent Weizmann Institute studies are revealing a complex picture of cancer progression in which certain genes that drive tumor growth in the earlier stages get suppressed in later stages - taking a step ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.