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New view of tumors' evolution
Date:3/13/2014

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- Cancer cells undergo extensive genetic alterations as they grow and spread through the body. Some of these mutations, known as "drivers," help spur cells to grow out of control, while others ("passengers") are merely along for the ride.

MIT cancer biologists at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and geneticists from the Broad Institute have now performed the most comprehensive analysis to date of these changes in mice programmed to develop cancer. The team discovered mutations and other genetic disturbances that arise at certain stages of lung cancer development; the researchers were also able to identify tumor cells that broke free to spread to other organs.

The findings, described in the March 13 issue of Cell, suggest possible new targets for drugs for this aggressive form of cancer, known as small cell lung cancer. There are now very few targeted drugs for small cell lung cancer, a highly lethal form of lung cancer that is associated with tobacco use and is usually treated with chemotherapy drugs that have severe side effects.

"Right now, small cell lung cancer is really lagging behind with respect to therapies that target a specific mutation or genetic alteration in the tumors, because we don't know a lot about the drivers in these cancers," says David McFadden, a postdoc at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and one of the lead authors of the Cell paper.

Other lead authors of the paper are Koch Institute postdoc Thales Papagiannakopoulos and Broad Institute researchers Amaro Taylor-Weiner, Chip Stewart, and Scott Carter. Senior authors are Tyler Jacks, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology and director of the Koch Institute, and Gad Getz, director of cancer genome computational analysis at the Broad Institute and director of the bioinformatics program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Tracking cancer progression

The research team
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Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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