Three new lung cancer-causing genes discovered

In collaboration with the Press Association

Three new genes which cause lung cancer have been discovered by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). The genes, termed TTF1, NKX2-8, and PAX9, are all located next to each other on human chromosome 14. It is already known that two of the genes are involved in the normal process of lung development as the fetus grows in the womb. When they are switched on by mistake in adult lung cells, the interaction of all three genes is thought to reactivate fetal genes. This "resets" the lung cells, ultimately leading to cancer. In fact, the researchers think that the interaction of the three genes is responsible for around one in five cases of lung cancer. "The collaboration of these genes and the fact that they are so close together on the chromosome may explain why this mutation is so common in lung cancer," explained CSHL investigator and co-author Scott Powers. Scientists found that by shutting down these genes, cancer could be halted in its tracks. "Lung cancer cells in adults can reactivate genes that are normally active in the earliest stages of lung development," CSHL lead investigator David Mu commented. "We identified the mutation that triggers this abnormal re-activation of developmental genes and showed that if you turn off these genes, you stop the cancer." It is hoped that this work could lead to the development of new treatment options for patients in the future. NCI Cancer Center Funds and Joan's Legacy Foundation backed the research, which was published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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