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Finding ways to block the Ras pathway in lung cancer

  • Researcher: Professor Julian Downward
  • Institution: The Francis Crick Institute
  • Award Amount: £173,461 for 3 years from January 2013
  • Cancer Type: Lung Cancer
Finding ways to block the Ras pathway in lung cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for more than 80% of all lung cancers, and is the most common cancer type in the world, killing more than 1.4 million people each year. Nearly half of patients have mutations in a group of molecules called the Ras pathway. So far attempts at developing treatments that work on the Ras pathway have been unsuccessful; there is therefore a need to develop new treatments for lung cancer patients where the Ras pathway plays a role in the disease.

Professor Downward and his team have found that cancer cells that develop with Ras mutations are dependent on a protein called GATA2. They developed a mouse model which showed that when GATA2 was removed, lung tumours regressed (became smaller) dramatically. They will now explore the relationship between GATA2 and lung cancer, how the absence of GATA2 affects the tumour as well as the area surrounding the tumour, and whether tumours can evolve to survive without it. They hope that this work will allow them to understand the role of GATA2, and to find out what effect the treatments that might block GATA2 from working could have on lung cancers caused by mutations in the Ras pathway.
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