In the study, the researchers found that the tumor suppressor gene, LIMD1, is responsible for protecting the body from developing lung cancer - paving the way for possible new treatments and early screening techniques.
Lead researcher Dr Tyson Sharp and his University of Nottingham team, together with US collaborator Dr Greg Longmore, set out to examine if loss of the LIMD1 gene correlated with lung cancer development.
The researchers examined lung cancer tissue from patients with the disease and compared it to healthy lung tissue.
They found that the LIMD1 gene was missing in the majority of lung cancer samples, indicating that the presence of the LIMD1 gene protects the body against lung cancer.
Longmore's team in the USA supported these findings, using a mouse without the LMID1 gene, which developed lung cancer.
"The LIMD1 gene studied in this research is located on part of chromosome 3, called 3p21," Sharp said.
"Chromosome 3p21 is often deleted very early on in the development of lung cancer due to the toxic chemicals in cigarettes, which implies that inactivation of LIMD1 could be a particularly important event in early stages of lung cancer development.
"We are now going to extend these finding by developing LIMD1 as a novel prognostic tool for detection of early stage lung cancer," Sharp added.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.