Study sheds light on how lung cancer spreads in the early stages

A summary of research published in Nature

A new study has revealed some of the processes that happen in the body in the early stages of lung cancer. The research, published in the journal Nature, offers some hope that new drugs could be developed to target this process and slow down or prevent the growth of lung cancer tumours.

What did the study look at?

Researchers took lung tissue samples and lung tumour samples from 35 people who had surgery to remove parts of the lung with cancer. The researchers then analysed these samples and blood samples from each person in a laboratory. The researchers looked at the lung tissue around the tumour. They did this to understand what happens to the body’s cells as lung cancer takes hold.

What do the results show?

By studying the cells in the samples, the researchers could map out a surprising process happening as the tumours grew in the lungs. Immune cells, which normally repair tissue in the body, were being used by tumours when cancer started to grow in the lung. The tumours were able to ‘trick’ the cells into helping them to invade the lung. The process helped tumours to hide from the immune system, that would usually defend the body against disease. The cancer was then able to progress to later stages.

Why is this important?

Lung cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage and research efforts have focused on understanding the early stages of lung cancer in the hope of identifying new target areas for treatments. This study helps to build up a picture of what happens in the lung as cancer grows and then spreads. By exploring this, researchers hope that they can understand what drives tumour growth. The processes they discover can then be used as target areas for treatments, such as immunotherapy, which works by supporting our body’s immune system to fight cancer.

Read the original research paper