Predicting Aggresive Metastasis-Prone Lung Cancer by Identification of Abnormally Activated Genes Authors’ Interview: Sophie Rousseaux and Saadi Khochbin

INSERM, U823; Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble 1; Institut Albert Bonniot, Grenoble F-38700, France. What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We first discovered that all cancer cells lose the ability to maintain gene silencing and therefore activate genes that should normally remain silent. Although present in all cells, some genes are normally expressed (or “active”) only in one cell type. For example, normal lung cells do not express genes that are only active in germ cells (i. e., cells that will become spermatozoa), but lung cancerous cells activate some of these germ cells-specific genes. In this work we designed a specific approach to detect these aberrant gene expressions and found that they occur in all cancers of all origins.

We then decided to exploit this phenomenon to help the detection of cancers and predict their evolution. For this purpose, we chose to focus on lung cancer to establish “a proof of principle”.

We found that, among all the genes wrongly expressed in the tumour cells, the activation of 26 of them enabled us to identify the most aggressive lung cancers. Compared with the existing information currently available for doctors (i.e.; tumour size, its pathological subtype…), our approach brings much more precision in predicting the evolution of the tumours and the prognosis of the patients.
Continue reading