Scientists May Know How Lung Cancer Spreads

THURSDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- New insight into how primary lung cancer turns into invasive, or metastatic, cancer could lead to treatments that improve patient survival, U.S. scientists say.

The research team at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that lung cancer becomes invasive by suppressing a type of microRNA that normally keeps tumors in a non-metastatic state. Specifically, when microRNA-200 was suppressed in mice prone to metastatic lung cancer, all their primary lung tumors became invasive, the study found.

The study appears in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Genes & Development.

"Existing treatments have little success against cancer that has spread to other organs, so finding a way to prevent metastasis could have a huge impact on survival," senior author Dr. Jonathan Kurie, a professor in M.D. Anderson's Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, said in a university news release.

"To do that, we need to understand the cues that initiate metastasis. In this paper, we show that microRNA-200 is one of those central cues," he explained.

The researchers are now trying to identify regulators of microRNA-200 that might offer targets for treatment.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about lung cancer.

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, Sept. 14, 2009

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