Two Oncogenes Join to Drive Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Released: 2/10/2014 12:00 PM EST Source Newsroom: Mayo Clinic Contact Information

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Newswise JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Patients with a common form of lung cancer lung squamous cell carcinoma have very few treatment options. That situation may soon change.

A team of cancer biologists at Mayo Clinic in Florida is reporting in the Feb. 10 issue of Cancer Cell the discovery of two oncogenes that work together to sustain a population of cells in lung squamous cell carcinoma, which may be responsible for the lethality of the disease. When these cells, termed cancer stem cells, are inhibited, tumors cannot develop.

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Cancer stem cells are a small population of cells in a tumor that can self-renew and grow indefinitely. They resist most treatments and are thought to be responsible for relapse, says the studys senior author, Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., the Monica Flynn Jacoby Professor of Cancer Studies at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

If you can shut down cancer stem cells, you may be able to stop relapse after therapy, he says.

The study, which is featured on the cover of Cancer Cell, builds upon years of research by Dr. Fields and his colleagues on a cancer-causing gene protein kinase C iota (PKCiota). They were the first to discover the connection between PKCiota and initiation, promotion and spread of lung cancers, including lung squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for 3040 percent of all lung cancer. The researchers found that the PKCiota gene is errantly repeated numerous times in lung squamous cell carcinoma cells through a genetic alteration termed gene amplification. PKCiota gene amplificationis associated with poor patient survival. Subsequently, they discovered that PKCiota is necessary to maintain cancer stem cells in these tumors, but how it did that was not clear.

The newly released study defines the process. The researchers discovered that PKCiota and a second oncogene, SOX2, found in the same region of chromosome 3 known as 3q26, are coordinately amplified and overexpressed in a majority of lung squamous cell carcinomas. The study further shows that these two oncogenes are also functionally linked in these tumors.

We now know that PKCiota activates SOX2, meaning that these two genes are not just genetically linked by amplification, but also biochemically and functionally linked in promoting lung squamous cell carcinoma, says the studys lead author, Verline Justilien, Ph.D., an instructor of cancer biology at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

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Two Oncogenes Join to Drive Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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