The research focused on a gene known as WWOX, which is lost or silenced in a large majority of lung cancers, and in cancers of the breast, ovary, prostate, bladder, esophagus and pancreas. The work was led by scientists at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
The study showed that both in the laboratory and in animal experiments, restoring the missing or silenced WWOX gene can slow or stop the cells' growth.
The study also showed that the reactivated gene is highly effective in stopping the growth of human lung tumors that have been transplanted into mice.
The findings are published online in the Oct. 13 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The American Cancer Society expects more than 172,500 Americans to develop lung cancer in 2005, and more than 163,500 people to die of the disease, making it the most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.
"Our findings show that restoring the WWOX gene in lung-cancer cells that don't express it will kill that lung-cancer cell," says coauthor Kay Huebner, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and a researcher with the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center .
"This suggests that if this gene could be delivered to, or reactivated in, the tumor cells of lung-cancer cases that are deficient in this gene, it should have a therapeutic effect."
WWOX is a tumor suppressor gene. Tumor suppressor genes safeguard the body by triggering the death of cells that have sustained serious DNA damage before the cells become cancerous. The loss or silencing of tumor suppressor genes is a fundamental cause of tumor development.