Researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have detected an enzyme, which might serve as a good marker in the diagnosis and prognosis of lung cancer.
The study, led by Professor Xavier Pares of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the university, has identified the enzyme, AKR1B10, which is detected in large quantities only in lung cancers, particularly those caused by smoking.
The enzyme can appear even when the cancer has not yet developed and lesions are precancerous. Thus, AKR1B10 would serve as a good marker in the diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.
Moreover, the molecule's activity could play a relevant role in the development of lung cancer, which makes the finding of great interest for potential future therapeutical applications as well.
According to researchers, the experiments carried out using test tubes and cell cultures revealed that the enzyme lowers the levels of the most active form of vitamin A (retinoic acid), a strong anticancerous agent.
This is achieved by its strong retinal reductase activity, which favours chemical reduction transformation, thus causing retinal, the precursor of retinoic acid, to transform into its least active form, retinol.
Retinoic acid is present in several biological processes, from foetus development to cell proliferation and differentiation, by controlling the expression of certain genes.
The reduction of this acid within cells, which is precisely the effect produced by the enzyme under study, is linked directly to the lack of cell differentiation and therefore favours the development of the cancer.
The study is published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).