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Researchers find gene that causes lung cancer

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Researchers find gene that causes lung cancer

A research team led by Jichi Medical University has found a new type of gene that causes lung cancer in smokers, raising hopes that it will lead to the development of methods to detect and treat the disease, researchers said.

The team announced its discovery of the new gene, which researchers believe is an abnormal one caused by smoking, in the online edition of British science magazine Nature on Thursday.

"You can check if you have this kind of gene simply by testing your sputum. It will likely be useful for early detection. If a substance that can stop the activity of the gene is discovered, it will lead to development of a new curative drug," said Prof. Hiroyuki Mano, a member of the team.

Among various kinds of cancer, the death rate of patients with lung cancer is the highest in Japan and the United States.

Experts have believed that the mutation of a gene called EGFR is responsible for lung cancer. However, the mutation is observed mainly in non-smokers and it had been unknown what kind of gene caused lung cancer in smokers.

The research team extracted numerous genes from lung cancer cells in a patient who was a smoker, and conducted experiments using normal cells in a bid to identify the gene that makes cells cancerous.

During the experiments, researchers found an abnormal gene formed as a result of a fusion between half of an EML4 gene and half of an ALK gene.

After conducting experiments using rats, the researchers concluded that the abnormal gene creates an enzyme that multiplies cancer cells without limitations.

They subsequently examined 75 lung cancer patients, and found this type of abnormal gene in five -- or 7 percent of them. Four of the five were smokers. (Mainichi)

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