A team of Australian scientists have made a key breakthrough in the fight against lung cancer and emphysema as well as detecting the disease before it spreads through the body. Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lung grow in an uncontrolled way. It often spreads (metastasises) to other parts of the body before the cancer can be detected in the lungs. Lung cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. The breakthrough discovery offers hope to the 15,000 Australians who die of lung cancer each year.
Researchers from Melbourne's Hudson Institute of Medical Science have discovered that the molecule Interleukin 6 (Il-6) causes inflammation which triggers both the deadly diseases.
‘There is new hope for lung cancer suffers and those at risk of developing the disease. An experimental drug known as sgp130FC works by shutting down the signalling system responsible for developing lung cells’
The six-year project by the Hudson team confirmed previous theories that Il-6 is linked to the diseases when the team uncovered the trans-signalling
process used by the molecule prompts cell growth in lung cancer and cell destruction in emphysema. Having developed a blood test that detects abnormal levels of Il-6, the Hudson team believes a screening process that detects the diseases in their earliest stages can be developed.
The experimental drug known as sgp130FC
which is currently undergoing clinical human trials to fight inflammatory bowel disease in Europe, appears to shut down the signalling system responsible for developing lung cells. The drug is designed to bind to the II-6 molecule which in turn blocks the molecule from attaching itself to lung cells. It therefore can't pass on signals to grow or self-destruct.
Lead researcher Professor Brendan Jenkins said screening may one day be able to detect the disease before the danger is switched on. "The beauty of the two studies we have done is that we have shown that yes, the molecule is increased in the blood and tissue biopsies, but importantly we have shown that if you target Il-6 and block it you will see a suppression of disease in both lung cancer and emphysema," Prof Jenkins said. Researchers have now identified the way of targeting Il-6.
"You see a dramatic reduction in the amount of tumors forming, they just don't seem to grow anywhere near as well as the tumors would if sgp130Fc was not there," Jenkins said. It is very effective at blocking and retarding the growth of these tumors."The more amazing thing is that if you treat an animal just before they would normally start to develop emphysema, the mice just don't develop the disease at all. It blocks it completely and there is no emphysema at all," he added.
The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine