Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Tobacco Tumours

Identifying the cells in which smoking-related lung cancer originates

05 August 2019

Tobacco Tumours

Tobacco contains over 7000 chemicals; around 70 can cause cancer. It’s no wonder then that the leading cause of lung adenocarcinoma is smoking. Toxic tobacco chemicals cause dangerous genetic mutations in lung cells, particularly in the KRAS gene. However, which lung cells are most prone to form tumours is unclear. Researchers investigated this in a mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma. Mice were genetically manipulated to express fluorescent markers in different lung cell types and were exposed to tobacco chemicals. Micro-CT captured sections through (pictured, top row) and 3D models of (bottom row) their lungs, revealing clear tumours. Fluorescent imaging identified airway epithelial cells as originators of the tumours. Using DNA sequencing, KRAS mutations were identified in these cells as expected. Removing airway epithelial cells before exposing the mice to tobacco chemicals prevented tumour formation. Targeting these cells early on could therefore prevent the progression of this often fatal cancer.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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