Research at CPC-M - Researchers decipher subtypes of lung carcinoma

Research at CPC-M

Researchers decipher subtypes of lung carcinoma

Lung cancer also in non-smokers: Researchers decipher subtypes of lung carcinoma

Lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) is the most common form of lung cancer and the most frequent cause of cancer death in men worldwide. In most cases, the cause is cigarette smoking. But radon, particulate matter, diesel engine exhaust, asbestos or quartz dust can also trigger the disease. Interestingly, the number of LUAD cases has been increasing for several years among non-smokers or people who have long since stopped smoking.

The team around DZL Principal Investigator Dr. Georgios Stathopoulos would like to know which environmental carcinogens trigger which mutations in the lung cells? What happens at the molecular level through tobacco smoke and what happens through radiation? According to their hypothesis, these two causes trigger two different subtypes of lung adenocarcinoma:

Smoking triggers mutations in an important protein involved in cell division (KRAS). In contrast, irradiation mutates a receptor for growth factors (EGFR). The researchers hope to define and map these different signatures of smoking and irradiation in LUAD. In this way, they hope to gain a better understanding of the origin and development of LUAD and identify new therapeutic targets.

Human lung adenocarcinoma showing signs of intense inflammation, left from a non-smoker, right from a smoker. In brown color are shown immunoreactive inflammatory cells infiltrating the tumor.
© Helmholtz Zentrum München

To this end, they are investigating the "fingerprints" of cancer cells using RNA sequencing. In healthy cells, RNA (ribonucleic acid) is responsible for converting genetic information into necessary proteins. In lung cancer on the other hand, the RNA triggers malignant cell growth - a metastasis. The researchers analyze the RNA of diseased mouse and human cells. They want to read out the mutation processes and identify what exactly triggers cigarette smoke or radiation in the RNA.

These fingerprints of the RNA should ultimately improve the diagnosis and therapy of LUAD as well as the knowledge of the causes.