Gene linked to lung cancer spread
Scientists have identified a genetic change that makes lung tumours more likely to spread to other parts of the body. The genetic change discovered in mice has also been found in human tumour samples.
Researchers analysed tumours from mice that were genetically modified to developed lung tumours. While all the mice developed lung tumours, only some of these tumours spread around the body.
The process of cancer spreading to other parts of the body is known as metastasis. Metastatic cancer has a high chance of killing patients. Comparing metastatic to non-metastatic tumours, researchers discovered a difference in the activity of a gene called NKX2-1. Metastatic tumours had reduced activity of this gene.
Researchers also analysed human lung cancers. They found reduced activity in the NKX2-1 gene was linked to higher death rates.
Understanding how tumours become more aggressive and metastasise could lead to new treatments for cancer.
Targetting the NKX2-1 gene with medicines is difficult becuase it would mean turning it back on rather than turning it off. However, researchers hope to target other genes controlled by NKX2-1.
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