Seemingly healthy cells may, in fact, hide clues that lung cancer would later develop, an alarming study shows.
The researchers examined gene expression in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).It showed the area adjacent to tumours is rich with cancer markers.
In addition, researchers from University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Centre discovered the previously unknown role of a cancer-promoting gene in the airways of smokers with lung cancer.
"These cancer-associated changes that distinguish the airways of smokers with lung cancer and healthy smokers may help us diagnose lung cancer earlier and develop more effective strategies for treatment," explained Humam Kadara, assistant professor at MD Anderson Cancer Centre.
Field cancerisation (FC) is a phenomenon in which large areas of cells are affected by a cancer-causing event such as smoking.
This is the first effort to comprehensively examine gene expression, known as the transcriptome, of the adjacent airway field cancerisation in NSCLC.
Previous research has shown normal-appearing tissue close to lung pre-malignant and cancer lesions may have tumour-associated molecular abnormalities.
It is known that cigarette smoke induces widespread cellular changes and pre-malignant lesions in the lungs of smokers, said the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
This is the first time the role of this gene in lung cancer has been studied. It was highly over-expressed in adjacent normal cells, indicating the possibility of future detection and treatment strategies, Kadara noted.