As many as 26 genes that are frequently mutated in the most common form of lung cancer, have been identified by an international team of researchers, thus opening up avenues for developing new therapies for treating the disease.
The researchers looked at nearly 200 patients with lung adenocarcinoma and decoded or sequenced the DNA of several hundred genes that are known to or are suspected to be involved in cancer development.
By scanning the tumour genomes, they identified several abnormally active as well as silent genes.
The team was able to pinpoint more than 1,000 genetic alterations - the majority of which had not been previously known.
For example, the NF1, ATM, RB1 and APC genes, which were previously not linked to lung cancer, were mutated in a significant portion of the lung tumors analysed.
These genes have been implicated in other tumour types, suggesting roles in multiple forms of cancer.
The scientists also found genetic ties to a critical class of genes known as tyrosine kinases.
Kinases are known to promote cell growth. In lung tumours, the researchers found mutations in several groups of related tyrosine kinase genes, including the EGF, EPH, FGF, NTRK, and VEGF receptor gene families.
"In recent years, there's been some important successes for targeted therapies for some types of lung cancer," Nature quoted co-senior author Matthew Meyerson, a senior associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and an associate professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, as saying.
"This work helps identify new targets that might show promise for treating broader groups of lung cancer patients."
"One of the key findings from our study is that some of the newly discovered genes and pathways that are mutated in lung cancer are also known to be defective in other cancers.
"That gives us hope that targeted therapies could be used across multiple cancer types," he added.
The study is published in journal Nature.