February 1, 2012

Drugs reverse lung cancer cell changes

Drugs that target “epigenetic” changes may help treat or slow the progression of lung cancer.

(Wellcome Images)

The protein transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) can act as either a tumor suppressor or a tumor promoter depending on the stage of cancer. Loss of TGF-beta’s tumor suppressor activity may play an important role in lung cancer progression.

Pran Datta, Ph.D., and colleagues previously showed that this loss of responsiveness to TGF-beta occurs mainly through loss of expression of the TGF-beta type II receptor (TbRII). However little is known about the mechanisms underlying this loss of expression – or how it might be restored.

In a recent study published in Neoplasia, Datta and colleagues identify several proteins/pathways involved in regulating TbRII expression in lung cancer cell lines, and that histone deacetylation – an “epigenetic” change that modulates gene expression – is involved in the loss of TbRII expression in lung cancer cells. Additionally, drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) were shown to restore expression of TbRII, suggesting that these compounds – either alone or in combination with other agents – may hold potential in treating or slowing the progression of lung cancer.

The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Veterans Affairs.