Protein Presents Key Therapeutic Target in Lung Cancer

ASCL1 protein critical in the development of small cell lung cancer.

The protein ASCL1 was found to be critical in the development of small cell lung cancer, and may be an important therapeutic target.

In a study published in Cell Reports, researchers used a genetically engineered mouse model that developed human-like small cell lung cancer. They were able to identify 2 regulatory pathways, that ended up revealing vulnerabilities in the cancer.

During the study, researchers were able to differentiate between the tumor promoting function of ASCL1 and the protein NEUROD1 in small cell lung cancer. The results of the study showed that some small cell lung cancers express ASCL1, while others express NEUROD1.

The 2 genes regulate different processes within the cells; however, they both seem to control the genes that are most important in driving this disease.

“Small cell lung cancer is a devastating disease that is diagnosed in 30,000 people a year in the US and accounts for roughly 15% of lung cancer cases,” said researcher John D. Minna. “Most patients survive 1 year or less and therapy has not changed significantly in 30 years. Our work shows the possibility of developing entirely new types of targeted therapies for small cell lung cancer by focusing on ASCL1.”