Scientists in the UK claim to have identified a crucial molecular player in a subtype of lung cancer that could pave way for a new approach towards treating the condition.
As per the research published in Nature Communications, the scientists at the University of Cambridge discovered that a protein called BCL11A is found in high amounts in lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) cells.
The scientists, who secured funding from Cancer Research UK, found that modifying the gene responsible for BCL11A halted the development of LUSC in a mouse model of the disease.
Cancer Research UK said that the research on lung cancer treatment also revealed a signaling pathway in which the BCL11A protein was involved apart from discovering a potential druggable target, dubbed SETD8.
The organization said that targeting the molecule genetically and also with early forms of drugs, selectively targeted lab-grown LUSC cancer cells and in LUSC cells transplanted into mice.
Cancer Research UK chief scientist Karen Vousden said: “Identifying potentially druggable targets is an early yet crucial stage in the journey towards precision medicine.
“While there is much to be done before this work could be translated into patient benefit, it’s a fundamental step towards that goal and we look forward to seeing how this discovery progresses along the research pipeline.”
Cancer Research UK has granted an additional funding to the scientists following the early discoveries to help develop a drug to target the BCL11A protein with the hope that it could turn out to be a new treatment option for lung cancer.
University of Cambridge’s Walid Khaled, the lead author of the study, said: “Developing targeted treatments is a real opportunity for improving the outlook for patients.
“With this new drug discovery grant from Cancer Research UK we are working to develop small molecules to specifically block BCL11A in LUSC cells.
“We are aiming to disrupt critical interactions that BCL11A has with other proteins and are working closely with our colleagues at the Department of Biochemistry in Cambridge and CRUK Beatson Institute Drug Discovery Unit to achieve this.”