Scientists uncover role gene plays in small cell lung cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

US scientists have used cutting-edge gene sequencing technology to identify a gene that might be involved in the progression of small cell lung cancer.

The research, lead by Dr Alison Dooley at the David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Massachusetts, and published in the journal Genes and Development, could help to pinpoint new drug targets.

The team used a process called whole-genome profiling to find segments of DNA that had been duplicated in mice that had developed cancer, and then looked to see whether these faults were also present in human small cell lung tumours.

One of the regions duplicated in both mouse and human cancers was a single gene called Nuclear Factor I/B (NFIB), which had previously never been linked to small cell lung cancer.

Further studies revealed that NFIB is involved in controlling how quickly small cell lung cancer cells divide, and that blocking its action could slow the growth of tumours.

Oliver Childs, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This work is exciting, and shows the potential of powerful new gene-sequencing technologies to uncover the inner workings of cancer.

"Small cell lung cancer is often diagnosed after it has already spread to other parts of the body, so it can be hard to study which genes drive this progression in patients.

"By using laboratory models combined with studies in human tumour cells, this team has provided a compelling clue to what causes the disease to progress. The next step is to further explore which genes NFIB controls, as these may prove to be useful targets for future treatments."

Copyright Press Association 2011

References

  • Dooley, A.L. et al. Nuclear factor I/B is an oncogene in small cell lung cancer. Genes & Development 2011 DOI: 10.1101/gad.2046711