New Understanding of Pulmonary Tumors
The results of a study published on the prestigious "Oncogene" scientific journal shed light on a new mechanism that permits lung cancer stem cells to spread. The study, which was coordinated by Prof. Rita Mancini from the Sapienza Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, was conducted in collaboration with several important institutions including the “Regina Elena National Cancer Institute” and with the support of AIRC, the Italian Association for Cancer Research.
It has been generally accepted that cancer is an heterogeneous disease, where cells are organized according to a precise hierarchy. In agreement with this theory, a subset of cells called “cancer stem cells” represent the driving force of tumor growth. A number of evidences indicate that these cells are more resistant to chemotherapies and are responsible for metastasis and disease recurrence after treatment. Therefore, a deep understanding of the mechanisms at the basis of cancer stem cells propagation is an urgent need in cancer research.
"Our lab has been studying lipid metabolism in lung cancer stem cells. In particular we focused on the role of SCD1, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of Monounsaturated fatty acids” explains Rita Mancini. “In this paper, using lung cancer stem cells isolated from the pleural effusions of patients we demonstrated how SCD1 acts by activating two key pathways in cancer cells: β-catenin and YAP/TAZ pathways".
“In other words, this new study” continues Rita Mancini, “reinforces the importance of SCD1 as one of the main driver of lung cancer stem cells propagation. We also have reason to believe that the key role of SCD1 extends to other types of tumours, too".
"The therapeutic potential of our results” points out Gennaro Ciliberto, Scientific Director of the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, “is the ability to block the growth of stem cells using small molecules that inhibit the enzymatic activity of SCD1, and which should be able to establish synergies with current therapies. This is what we observed in our studies in vitro. We are currently testing more complex models of tumour growth ."The very interesting thing is that SCD1 inhibitors are already available for use in humans.
So, the next step”, concludes Ciliberto, “will be the ability to transfer this therapeutic option to patients, in line with our translational research approach". The other institutions that collaborated in the study are the Pascale Institute of Naples, University Federico II of Naples, Luigi Vanvitelli University of Campania, the University of Trieste and the University of Leicester in the UK.