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Researchers Reveal Lung Cancer Can Stay Hidden For Over 20 Years

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A study published in the journal Science today said that scientists at the Cancer Research UK have discovered that it is possible for lung cancers to lie dormant for over 20 years. It may turn aggressive due to additional faults.

For this research, the team studied lung cancers from seven patients which included smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers. In their study, they discovered that even after the first genetic mistake has happened due to which the cancer is caused, it can exist undetected for many years. Only when new additional faults happen, it will trigger rapid growth of the disease.

This research is jointed funded by Cancer Research UK and the Rosetrees Trust. Its aim is to highlight the need for devising better ways to detect the onset of the disease earlier. Today, as high as two-thirds of patients are diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease. Unfortunately, at such a stage the treatments are most likely to be unsuccessful.

When the lung cancer expands rapidly, there is a surge of different genetic faults which appears in separate areas of the tumor. Studies have shown that each distinct section of the tumor evolves down different paths which mean that every part of the tumor is genetically unique.

The hard truth about the survival rates of lung cancer is that it is devastatingly low. There are many new targeted treatments, but they are making a limited impact on the disease. By understanding how it develops we know how the disease evolves. This knowledge will hopefully help us in predicting its next steps.

Smoking plays a big role in the development of lung cancer as the genetic faults are caused due to smoking. However, as the disease evolves it becomes less important as the majority of faults are then caused by a new process which generates mutations within the tumor. This process is controlled by a protein called APOBEC.

Since, there are a wide variety of faults; targeted treatment doesn't work as it is not effective against all part of the tumor.

Every year over 40,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. Even though there have been some positive breakthroughs against the diseases, we are still a long way to finding an effective way of treating it. For the last year, the survival rate of lung cancer is a mere 10% post diagnosis.

It is a priority for the recently established Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence at Manchester and UCL to build on this report. The Centre is an important part of Cancer Research UK’s renewed focus that aims to beat lung cancer; bringing together a unique range of internationally renowned scientists and clinicians to create an environment that catalyzes imaginative and innovative lung cancer research. To build on this work, Cancer Research UK is funding a study called TRACERx which will study 100s of patient’s lung cancers while they evolve over time to find out exactly how lung cancers mutate, adapt and become resistant to treatments.

“This fascinating research highlights the need to find better ways to detect lung cancer earlier when it’s still following just one evolutionary path. If we can nip the disease in the bud and treat it before it has started travelling down different evolutionary routes we could make a real difference in helping more people survive the disease. said Professor Nic Jones, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist.