New York: Offering hope in the fight against one of the world's deadliest cancers, scientists have identified a gene responsible for stopping the movement of cancer from the lungs to other parts of the body.
"Lung cancer, even when it is discovered early, is often able to metastasise almost immediately and take hold throughout the body," informed Reuben J. Shaw, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California.
By identifying the cause of this metastasis, scientists are able to explain why some tumours are more prone to spreading than others.
It is known that about a fifth of lung cancer cases are missing an anti-cancer gene called LKB1. Cancers missing LKB1 are often aggressive, rapidly spreading through the body.
Now, the Salk team has found the connection and a new target for therapy -- a little-known gene called DIXDC1.
The researchers discovered that DIXDC1 receives instructions from LKB1 to go to focal adhesions and change their size and number.
When DIXDC1 is "turned on", half-a-dozen or so focal adhesions grow large and sticky, anchoring cells to their spot.
"The communication between LKB1 and DIXDC1 is responsible for a 'stay-put' signal in cells. DIXDC1 turns out to be inhibited in cancer and metastasis," explained Jonathan Goodwin, study's first author and research student at Salk Institute.
"Patients missing either gene should be sensitive to new therapies targeting focal adhesion enzymes, which are currently being tested in early-stage clinical trials," Shaw added in a paper detailed in the journal Molecular Cell.