Researchers studying the causes of lung cancer’s early stages have uncovered a novel therapeutic option that may also aid in early diagnosis. The study’s findings were published in the journal Cell Reports. TLR2 protein levels in tumours were shown to predict a patient’s survival after being diagnosed with lung cancer, according to a research. A TLR2 activating pharmacological molecule was tried in mice and shown to inhibit tumour development in the early stages of the disease.
With just a 6% five-year survival rate from late-stage lung cancer, compared to 50% when caught early, scientists believe the discovery might help detect the illness earlier and improve patient outcomes. When malignant mutations arise in cells, a study lead by researchers from the University of Edinburgh discovered that TLR2 helps govern some of the body’s defence systems. The protein is associated with senescence, a process in which cells cease growing and release a range of chemicals and other proteins that function as warning signs and cancer defences.
Senescent cells are found in early lung tumours but not in late-stage malignancies, indicating that senescence can slow cancer growth. After determining the significance of TLR2, the researchers analysed data from human tumour samples to establish that individuals with high levels of the protein in the early stages of lung cancer had a higher chance of surviving than those with lower levels.
The researchers next utilised a medication known to activate TLR2 in a lung cancer animal model. Researchers discovered that the medication inhibited the development of lung tumours. Experts anticipate that these findings will spur research into employing senescence and the accompanying released chemicals as part of a screening programme to enable an early diagnosis of lung cancer.
The team notes that more study is needed, such as clinical studies to establish whether the medicine is useful in humans. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University College London, the University of Cantabria in Spain, the Spanish National Research Council, and the Mayo Clinic in the United States collaborated on the study.
According to Dr Fraser Millar, Clinical Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh: “These findings are really exciting to me. We know very little about the biology of early lung cancer, and by learning more about it, we may be able to develop a new treatment for this deadly disease. This project emphasises the importance of basic science research and how it can lead to new treatments for patients.”