Molecular target in pre-cancerous lung cells identified – and an inhibitory drug
Cells lining the lungs are continuously replaced to fix the damage caused by inhaled particles or pathogens. Replication of basal stem cells (stained green here) provides the source of these replacement cells, but sometimes the process gets out of control – as in the lung cancer specimen shown on the right. Healthy lung tissue, by contrast, is on the left. Studies of lung tissue from healthy people, those with premalignant cancer lesions and those with squamous lung cancer have uncovered a common signalling pathway that's ramped up in patient cells compared with controls. And, researchers have shown that if these signals are experimentally increased in healthy mouse lungs, excessive basal cell proliferation occurs – just like in cancer. Importantly, a recent screen of drug compounds has identified a candidate that can inhibit this signalling pathway in lab-grown human lung cells and prevent their proliferation, offering hope for compound’s clinical development.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.