Lung stem cells vital to lung repair associated with poor cancer prognosis when found in tumor

August 17, 2010

Adult stem cells that are vital for airway repair in the lung but that persist in areas where pre-cancerous lesions are found are associated with a poor prognosis in patients who develop cancer, even those with early stage disease, researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have found.

These adult stem cells are found in repairing areas after injury and also are found in pre-cancerous areas, suggesting that these cells may mutate and become causing stem cells, making them a potential cell-of-origin for lung cancer and a possible target for prevention strategies and new targeted therapies.

The study found that when these adult stem cells are found in excised tumors, they are associated with a poor prognosis and could be used as markers to dictate the need for more aggressive treatment for those patients, said Brigitte Gomperts, an assistant professor of hematology/oncology, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and co-senior author of the study.

The presence of the adult stem cells in the tumors also was found to be associated with a higher likelihood that the cancer had spread to other organs.

"We can use the presence of these adult stems cells to identify patients with a high likelihood of relapse and risk of the cancer spreading, even in those where the tumor is small and can be entirely removed," said Gomperts, who is also a researcher with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

The study appeared Aug. 15, 2010 in the peer-reviewed journal .

There is a growing body of evidence that shows many if not all cancers are caused by stem cells. Cancer stem cells are resistant to therapy and lie dormant, ramping up sometimes years later and recreating the tumor. If the cancer stem cells can be identified and studied, targeted therapies could be developed to kill them.

In this study, Gomperts and her team screened around 900 tumors removed from patients with non-small at UCLA and MD Anderson Cancer Center, looking to see whether the adult stem cells could be found in the tumor. In her lab, Gomperts is now studying the pre-cancerous lesions where the adult stem cells persist in an attempt to uncover the cascade of molecular events that may transform these cells into lung cancer stem cells.

More than 222,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year alone. Of those, more than 157,000 will die, according to the American Cancer Society.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and is responsible for more deaths each year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and skin cancers combined. The overall five-year survival for lung cancer is only 15%, and this is mostly due to cancer recurrence and distant spread of the cancer," Gomperts said. "This fits nicely with the idea that in the lung that are normally involved in repair become cancer stem cells, which are resistant to our conventional therapies. Having a targeted therapy to use against these cancer may be the key to reducing mortality from this disease."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New strategy for unleashing cancer-fighting power of p53 gene

December 13, 2017
Tumor protein p53 is one of the most critical determinants of the fate of cancer cells, as it can determine whether a cell lives or dies in response to stress. In a new study published today in the journal Nature Communications, ...

Researchers develop test that can diagnose two cancer types

December 12, 2017
A blood test using infrared spectroscopy can be used to diagnose two types of cancer, lymphoma and melanoma, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

Cancer-causing mutation suppresses immune system around tumours

December 12, 2017
Mutations in 'Ras' genes, which drive 25% of human cancers by causing tumour cells to grow, multiply and spread, can also protect cancer cells from the immune system, finds a new study from the Francis Crick Institute and ...

Atoh1, a potential Achilles' heel of Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma

December 12, 2017
Medulloblastoma is the most common type of solid brain tumor in children. Current treatments offer limited success and may leave patients with severe neurological side effects, including psychiatric disorders, growth retardation ...

MRI scans predict patients' ability to fight the spread of cancer

December 12, 2017
A simple, non-invasive procedure that can indicate how long patients with cancer that has spread to the brain might survive and whether they are likely to respond to immunotherapy has been developed by researchers in Liverpool.

Drug suppresses spread of breast cancer caused by stem-like cells

December 12, 2017
Rare stem-like tumor cells play a critical role in the spread of breast cancer, but a vulnerability in the pathway that powers them offers a strategy to target these cells using existing drugs before metastatic disease occurs, ...

0 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.