Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 131,880 lung cancer deaths are predicted for this year alone. Though there have been advancements in technology and medicine for lung cancer, but it is still often diagnosed at later stages. The later the cancer is detected, it makes treatment options difficult. Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified and described a new gene which activates an aggressive subtype of small cell lung cancer, the P subtype, for which there is currently no effective treatment.
Lu Wang, Lead Study Author, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said, “This type of cancer is resistant to a lot of drugs and not many studies focus on it. By identifying this important gene, we now have a very good drug target to work with.” The main problem is that treatments for small cell lung cancer primarily rely on chemotherapy. Most of the patients develop chemo-resistance which impacts the overall efficacy of limited available treatment options and this in turn leads of reoccurrence of cancer.
Wang and his team have named the gene POU2AF2 based on the novel functions. The main is to implement a personalized approach to clinical treatment of small-cell lung cancer by targeting mechanisms that contribute to tumor growth based on factors that regulate molecular subtypes. This study has been published in Science Advances journal. Based on the genome-wide CRISPR screening, Wang said that the gene discovered by scientists is essential for this tumor subtype to thrive. The scientists are planning to develop a drug to disrupt the function of gene to treat this subtype of lung cancer. Other Northwestern authors include Zibo Zhao, Aileen Patricia Szczepanski and Natsumi Tsuboyama and Dr. Jun Watanabe and Dr. Rintaro Hashizume.
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