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Scientists identify key component in lethal lung cancer complication
Date:6/13/2011

d in a recent issue of the journal Neoplasia.

Before this study, previous research had established that the calcium-sensing receptor is important to lung development because mice lacking the receptor showed stunted lung growth. But its presence had never been documented in adult human lungs.

Researchers also knew that hypercalcemia was associated with unregulated release of a specific hormone, and that it developed in patients with cancers based in the epithelia, or tissue that makes up the lining of organs, blood vessels and body cavities. Squamous-cell carcinoma of the lung is one of these types of cancers.

Despite all that was known, however, the connection between the receptor and hypercalcemia had never been established in lung cancer. Studies suggest that anywhere from a fourth to two-thirds of lung cancer patients will develop the deadly syndrome.

Hypercalcemia symptoms include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure and acute kidney failure. Most patients suffer dementia, become irritable and have sleep problems, and eventually have seizures, slip into a coma and die.

Some of the few treatment options available include two types of drugs that inhibit the bone loss. Fluid therapy also helps wash away the calcium. But Lorch said drugs that target the culprit hormone itself - known as PTHrP, or parathyroid hormone-related protein are not available for human use.

"What we really need is something that works at the level of the tumor cell," Lorch said. "We don't have anything that can reduce the tumor burden and therefore reduce the production of PTHrP."

In the study, Lorch and colleagues obtained squamous-cell lung cancer cell lines from three human patients. The researchers first showed with genetic data that all of these cells had produced proteins that indicated that the cells contained calcium-sensing receptors a new finding in itself.

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Contact: Gwendolen Lorch
gwendolen.lorch@cvm.osu.edu
614-292-9698
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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