November 8, 2005

Missing protein may hold lung cancer key

LONDON (Reuters) - A single protein may hold the key to
turning the tide on lung cancer -- still the world's biggest
cancer killer -- research published on Tuesday showed.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found
that type 2 receptors for Transforming Growth Factor-b -- a
family of proteins that controls key functions such as cell
growth and death -- were missing in non-small cell lung cancer

A check on mice injected with lung cancer cells confirmed
the findings, with much smaller and less aggressive tumors
developing in those carrying the type 2 TGF-b receptors.

"We've established for the first time that these important
molecules are either missing or that their action is reduced in
three-quarters of all cases of lung cancer," said lead
researcher Professor Pran Datta.

"When we restored the molecules in lung cancer cells in
mice, they reduced the ability of the cells to grow as tumors,"
he wrote in the British Journal of Cancer.

Having established the link, researchers must now find out
how or why the key receptor molecules go missing as the disease
develops, in order to find a way of treating it.

Some 80 percent of lung cancers are non-small cell cancers,
and the overwhelming cause of lung cancer is smoking -- either
active or passive.