A new treatment for lung cancer has been identified

A new treatment for lung cancer has been identified
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Researchers have identified a potential new treatment for lung cancer, which could also aid early detection of the disease.

Scientists investigating the mechanics of the early stages of lung discovered that levels of the key protein TLR2 in tumours could help predict a patient’s survival after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The researchers tested a compound that activates TLR2 in mice models. The team found the drug reduced tumour growth in the early stages of the disease.

The research comes from a collaboration between researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University College London, the University of Cantabria in Spain, the Spanish National Research Council, and the Mayo Clinic in the USA.

The study has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

Early detection to vital in treatment for lung cancer

The five-year survival rate for late-stage lung cancer is only 6%, compared to 50% if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages. The researchers say the breakthrough could help spot the disease sooner and improve treatment for lung cancer.

The research team managed to establish that TLR2 helped to control some of the body’s defence mechanisms when cancerous mutations occurred in cells.

The protein is linked with senescence, a process where cells stop growing and release a variety of chemicals and other proteins. These proteins provide warning signals and defences against cancer.

Senescent cells are present in early lung cancers; however, they are no longer present in late-stage cancers. This suggested to the researchers that senescence can prevent cancer progression.

Once they had identified the TLR2’s importance, the team analysed data from human tumour samples. They were able to confirm patients with high levels of the protein in the early stages of lung cancer had increased survival rates compared to those who had lower levels.

The findings could lead to drug development

They used a drug which is known to activate the TLR2 protein in a mouse model of lung cancer. The drug was found to significantly reduce the growth of lung cancer tumours in the mice.

According to the researchers, these findings could lead to more research into using senescence as a treatment for lung cancer. They also believe the associated secreted chemicals can be used as part of a screening programme to provide earlier detection of lung cancer.

The researchers note that further trials are needed to establish whether the drug is effective in humans.

“I think these results are really exciting. Very little is known about the biology of early lung cancer and by understanding this process more we have identified a possible new treatment for this devastating disease. This project highlights the value of basic science research and how this can be translated into new treatments for patients,” said Dr Fraser Millar, Clinical Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

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