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Study probes molecular makeup of lung cancer tumours


Toronto, ON – More than nine million people around the world will die from cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer can result from mutations to any part of the process that turns DNA into proteins – the functional molecules of cells. While DNA holds an individual’s genetic information, it is the proteins that put this information into action. Researchers have been collecting data on how mutated DNA can result in tumour growth, but relatively little is known about the extent to which proteins play a role.

In a study published in Nature Communications on November 28, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre affiliate scientist Dr. Michael Moran led a team of researchers, including Drs. Ming-Sound Tsao, Thomas Kislinger and Frances Shepherd, in a large-scale study aimed at identifying the pattern of proteins present in cancerous versus normal lung tissue. To accomplish this, they used protein mass spectrometry, a tool that can measure the various types of proteins that exist within a sample. The research team discovered a particular set of proteins, not previously implicated in cancer, which varied across the lung tumour samples from different patients. Furthermore, the availability of these proteins correlated with patient survival.

With this new information, doctors will be able to classify new subtypes of cancer as well as better estimate survivability. Dr. Moran says “Our next step will be to figure out how these individual proteins promote cancer, which is the first step towards developing more targeted anticancer drugs.”

This work was supported in part by the Canada Research Chairs Program, Ontario Research Fund, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Health and the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.