In what could prove to be a major breakthrough in treating lung cancer patients, a group of American and Australian researchers have discovered what makes the cancer return in people who have initially responded well to chemotherapy.
The five year survival rate among patients suffering from small cell lung cancer is just five percent. Though the patients initially respond well to chemotherapy, with the cancer going into remission, it quickly grows back and leads to the death of the patient.
Until now, scientists were unable to find out why the cancer came back. However researchers from Monash University in Melbourne found out that they can stop the cancer cells from relapsing by blocking a type of protein, known as a hedgehog. The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.
"What we found was that the hedgehog is very important when the cells are depleted down to a tiny population and are asked to regenerate the tumour. If you use drug that blocks the hedgehog signalling (for the cancer cells to regenerate) you can prevent small cell lung cancer cells from regenerating after chemotherapy", lead researcher Professor Neil Watkins said.