Researchers identify gene in lung cancer development

Volume 6, Issue 2, 2017


The discovery of the Ect2 gene may help guide new treatments for lung adenocarcinoma.

Photograph of Alan P. Fields, Ph.D.

Alan P. Fields, Ph.D.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have identified a gene that promotes a major form of lung cancer.

Their findings provide evidence that the gene Ect2 drives tumor formation in lung adenocarcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer.

The researchers' findings about the lung adenocarcinoma gene were published in a Feb. 13, 2017, paper in the journal Cancer Cell.

"In this paper we demonstrated for the first time that Ect2 is required for tumor formation in mice," said Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., a cancer biologist at Mayo Clinic's campus in Jacksonville, Florida, and senior author of the lung cancer paper.

"In normal cells, Ect2 directs the last step of cell division, called cytokinesis," Dr. Fields said. "However, we found that Ect2 is not necessary for cytokinesis in lung adenocarcinoma cells, indicating that there must be some other function for Ect2 that tumor cells require."

Dr. Fields discovered that the other function tumor cells require is a boost to ribosome production. Ribosomes are cellular machines that manufacture proteins from messenger RNA instructions.

"Ect2 drives increased synthesis of ribosomal RNA, which in turn gives rise to increased ribosomes," Dr. Fields said. "While it's been known for a long time that tumor cells have elevated ribosome levels, this paper is the first to show that Ect2 supports tumor cell growth by stimulating ribosome biogenesis."

From a clinical perspective, Dr. Fields said his team's findings reveal a potential novel therapeutic strategy for treating mutant KRAS lung adenocarcinoma cells in which Ect2 is overexpressed.