Study finds genetic aberrations linked to lung cancer; Could help in early diagnosis

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Researchers at Ohio State University have identified more than two dozen genes that behave abnormally in cancerous lung cells. The finding could lead to new tests for diagnosing lung cancer.

Led by Ming You, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, the researchers found 14 genes that are over-expressed - meaning they are too active - in lung cells stricken by cancer. They also identified 12 genes that are under-expressed (not active enough) in these cells.

You and his colleagues reported their findings in a recent issue of the journal Neoplasia. About half of the 26 genes pinpointed in the study have never been linked to lung cancer before.

"In the past five years, lung cancer has killed more people in the U.S. than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined," You said. "We must find methods for early detection of the disease."

For the study, You and his colleagues analyzed samples of cancerous lung tissue taken from patients who had died of the ailment. (Some of these victims had been heavy smokers and one had suffered exposure to asbestos.) The researchers compared the samples to normal lung tissue from the same patients.

Using standard tests, the researchers found that the level of certain proteins in the tumor cells was higher than normal. They traced the increased level of these proteins to the over-expression of 14 genes. In the same way, the researchers traced the low level of another set of proteins to 12 genes that were under-expressed in the tumor cells.

Among the genes identified in the study are ones that regulate intra-cellular communication, cell growth and apoptosis, or programmed cell death. The list includes some known oncogenes - genes that promote cancer when they go into overdrive - and some known tumor-suppressor genes, which fail to check tumor growth when they are under-ex

Contact: Ming You
Ohio State University

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