Manchester scientists discover lung cancer protein
Scientists from the University of Manchester have discovered a new protein that is involved in cancer and inflammation in lung tissue.
It is believed the findings of the research, carried out as part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, could help in the future development of drugs to target lung cancer.
Dr Toryn Poolman, from the University of Manchester, who worked on the research, said: “The study has given us a new insight into the mechanisms at play in lung inflammation and lung cancer. We believe it could provide a new area to target drugs in lung cancer.”
The researchers looked specifically at a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which regulate inflammation and energy production in cells, and have a role in controlling cell growth in lung cancer.
The newly discovered protein, known as Merm1, was found to be essential to for glucocortoids to function normally. The researchers also found that Merm1 is suppressed in both lung inflammation and cancer.
David Ray, Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology, who led the research, said: “We know that resistance to glucocorticoids happens in various inflammatory diseases, as well as cancer, in lung tissue. We wanted to explore whether a protein, known as Merm1, was involved in this resistance and therefore involved in controlling the uncontrolled cell growth that is the hallmark of cancer.”
The study showed that the enzyme Merm1 controls the binding between glucocorticoid receptors and its target genes. This step is essential for the receptor to work properly to control cell growth, and division. The study revealed that inflammation, as seen in asthma or bronchitis, results in loss of Merm1.
Professor Ray said: “This work shows that targeting Merm1 could offer a new strategy in developing anti-inflammatory treatments.”
The findings were published just before figures were released by Cancer Research UK showing that Manchester has a cancer death rate which is 10% higher than the national average, while the number of cancer diagnoses is also above the national average by a similar amount.
The study suggests that the most likely cause of this is the number of people in Manchester who smoke. Smoking rates for Greater Manchester are around 7% higher than the national average.
According to the figures lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Greater Manchester, with around 930 men and 790 women dying from the disease every year.
Allan Jordan, Head of Chemistry at the Drug Discovery Unit at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, which is part of the University of Manchester, said: “It’s extremely worrying to see that you’re more likely to die from cancer if you live in Manchester compared to other parts of the country.”
He added: “The latest stats show that lung cancer causes the most deaths from the disease in Greater Manchester. We must do more to tackle this by helping to reduce the number of people smoking as well as improving treatments, and diagnosing the disease earlier, when treatment is most likely to be effective.”