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Researchers Discover a New Type of Lung Cancer

Researchers have uncovered a new type of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). This discovery opens a way for developing personal medicine strategies, which target this type of disease that has gone unnoticed for a long time.

Cancer is not a single condition; it’s hundreds of various diseases. This is why oncologists find it difficult when it comes to testing a new drug after they realize that while it works perfectly well for some patients and then doesn’t with other patients. This has lead researchers to believe that if they can distinguish the types of tumors based on important biological characteristics, they can help patients respond effectively to certain drugs.

SCLC is an example of the cancer that desperately needs a new drug. This cancer usually spreads early and has no specific treatment. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy allow only 6 percent of the patients to survive for five years after being diagnosed. SCLC forms approximately, 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers.

New insight originates from the analysis carried out on gene activity. It shows an unexpected pattern of activity in almost 20 percent of samples. The research team, under the leadership of Christopher Vakoc, found the pulmonary neuroendocrine cells to contain a paucity of neuroendocrine cells. This cell type is believed to be a source of SCLC.

To characterize the cell further, the researchers used a procedure they developed back in 2015, which uses CRISPR (a gene editing tool) to screen for proteins that are important for the growth of cancer cell lines, which includes the SCLC lines. Using the tool, the researchers noticed that the transcription factor POU2F3 expressed in a small number of SCLC tumors that contain low amounts of neuroendocrine markers. Apparently, this form of SCLC tumors emanate from rare cells known as tuft cells.

Developing tumors that target the POU2F3’s function may be effective among those patients with tumors that contain high amounts of this transcription factor.




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