By: Sarah Miller
Due to more advanced technology in microscopic imaging, scientists at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute were able to view lung cancer cells with unprecedented detail. Utilizing these up-close and detailed snapshots, the researchers found an unlikely macromolecule that bolts cells together.
The protein they discovered, referred to as TIAM1, should connect neighboring cells in situations of normal homeostasis. Every so often, the cells would digest and replace the TIAM1, a completely normal and necessary process. But in lung cancer tumors, the scientists noticed that these proteins were broken at alarming rates, significantly more often than in healthy cells.
The recently discovered TIAM1 protein doesn’t necessarily contribute to the actually rapid, cancerous reproduction. The importance of this protein lies in the fact that without the cancerous cells hitched to one another, the mutated cells are free to travel throughout the body, creating different sites of cancerous tumors, a condition often associated with more deadly, late-staged cancer. Because of this newfound knowledge, scientists are aiming to create methods to slow and cease the process that removes the TIAM1 proteins to stop the proliferation of lung cancer to different locations.
This discovery is especially monumental as lung cancer is the most common of all cancers that result in death, annually causing the death of 35,000 people in the United Kingdom, where this research was completed. Information manager of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Nell Barrie, notes that further steps have to be taken, more progress must be made to improve the treatment of lung cancer. He cites that the next topic of researchers’ interest is earlier diagnosis, which is associated with lower chances of the TIAM1 proteins being removed and therefore less likelihood of the cancer spreading. In situations of earlier diagnosis, the treatment is more apt to be effective.