Researchers have discovered a new type of small cell lung cancer. As per the researchers, the lung cancer treatment options such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery enable only 6% of the patients to survive 5 years from the time of their diagnosis. Of the total lung cancer patients, about 10 to 15% are small cell lung cancer.
The study was published in Journal Genes and Development and it suggested that SCLC tumors reveal unexpected activity pattern in around 20% of the samples. The research team is led by Christopher Vakoc, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Assistant Professor and has found a paucity of neuroendocrine markers in pulmonary neuroendocrine cells. This cell type is considered to be a source for SCLC. The research team has used a method that employs the gene-editing tool CRISPR to screen for such proteins that are responsible for the growth of various human cancer cell lines such as SCLC lines. Using the CRISPR screen, a transcription factor called POU2F3 is expressed exclusively in the minority of SCLC tumors. This variant form of SCLC tumors is derived from a separate class of rare cells called tuft cells.
“We were using the CRISPR screen to discover new vulnerabilities in this disease that we didn’t know about before,” Vakoc says. “The surprise is that in the process, we discovered a new form of lung cancer.”
“In the past, we’ve lumped the different forms of SCLC together because they look similar on a microscope slide, but we now have some molecular tests that can easily discriminate these malignancies,” says postdoctoral investigator Yu-Han Huang, first author on the new paper. “Our findings suggest that we should be designing clinical studies for them separately, to find therapies that might cater to the different types of tumor.”
The team is now planning to use CRISPR-based stress test to look for variant types of pancreas cancer as well.
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