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Cell Pathway May Be Key to Lung Cancer's Spread
Date:7/3/2009

Researchers express hope that finding will lead to treatments,,

FRIDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've found a major cellular flaw that may drive the rapid spread of relapsed lung cancer.

When caught early, lung cancer can often be treated. But most cases are not detected until the disease is well advanced. Though doctors can sometimes put the cancer into remission, the disease often springs back more virulent than ever, frequently spreading to the person's brain and bones and defying most treatments.

Now, scientists at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are focusing on the same cellular pathway that causes colorectal cancer to develop and spread. Their work appears online today in Cell.

"This is a first step in peeling back the genetic underpinnings of lung cancer metastases," said Don Nguyen, a research associate at Sloan-Kettering. "We think most patients who relapse have this pathway."

Like all biochemical pathways, the one they've pinpointed, known as WNT/TCF, is a normal part of the cell structure and allows information to pass through different molecules in a cell, including healthy ones. Problems begin when something goes wrong with the pathway, as in the case of colorectal and adenocarcinoma lung cancers.

Scientists know that an abnormal, over-stimulated WNT/TCF pathway can trigger the development of colorectal cancer. Though WNT/TCF does not appear to play a role in creating the initial adenocarcinoma, it does seem to play a decisive role in helping the tumor spread aggressively to other organs, Nguyen said.

Sendurai A. Mani, an assistant professor of molecular pathology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said that the report "for the first time demonstrates that lung cancer acquires the molecular traits necessary to metastasize early on by activated WNT/TCF signaling."

The team of eight researche
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