Researchers have found that a gene which causes emphysema may also contribute to the development of lung cancer.
In a study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers, mice bred to have the human gene pleiomorphic adenoma gene-like 2 (PLAGL2) all developed emphysema, and by gender also developed lung cancer at rates as high as one in every six rodents.
Although the new study showed PLAGL2 as a contributing factor in emphysema and lung cancer development, the diseases form in opposite ways. Emphysema arises from cell death or injury, while lung cancer involves uncontrolled cell growth.
"We think this gene induces emphysema by causing stem cells in the lung to die," said Dr. Jonathan Weissler, vice chairman of the department of medicine and chief of medicine at UT Southwestern University Hospital and senior author of the study.
"The cells that don't die through apoptosis would be more likely to have uncontrolled growth" and become cancerous, suggesting a genetic link between the diseases.
The study will be published in the journal Lung Cancer.