UT Southwestern researchers have discovered a weakness of certain lung-cancer cells that could lead to better treatment options. The team identified a specific protein that these mutated genes require in order to replicate and to spawn aggressive tumor growth. The protein RHOA aids in focal adhesion kinase (FAK) that allows for cells to stick to each other and their surroundings, causing tumor growth, as well as travel throughout the body in metastastic growth.
Drugs that block FAK can now be studied in clinical trials as a potential treatment for lung cancer down the road.
Mutated KRAS genes have long been known to be the source of aggressive tumor growth, but it was unclear how to stop these genes from replicating after the mutation has already occurred. The studies, published in Cancer Discovery, have focused on stopping lung cancer at this point.
The research team, led by Pier Paolo Scaglioni, M.D., and Georgia Konstantinidou, M.D., investigated vulnerabilities in the activated KRAS genes by studying induced lung cancer, similar to human cancers, in mice.