Levels of a protein present in tumors can predict someone’s chances of surviving lung cancer and lead to new treatments, a study suggests.
Patients with high levels of TLR2 in early-stage lung cancer were found to have improved survival compared with those with lower levels.
A drug compound that activates TLR2 was also tested in mice and managed to reduce tumor growth.
The findings could help identify diseases earlier and improve people’s chances of overcoming them, the researchers said.
The five-year survival rate for advanced lung cancer is 6%, but it is 50% when detected early.
TLR2 is associated with aging, where cells stop growing and secrete chemicals and other proteins that trigger warning signals and defenses against cancer.
Senescent cells appeared in early-stage lung cancer, but not in advanced-stage lung cancer, suggesting that they could stop the disease from progressing.
“I think these results are very exciting,” said Dr Fraser Miller, Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
“Little is known about the biology of early-stage lung cancer, and by learning more about this process, we have identified a possible new therapy to treat this devastating disease.”
The research is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, UCL, the University of Cantabria, the Spanish National Research Council and the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
It was published in the journal Cell Reports.
Experts hope it could lead to research using aging and related chemicals as part of a screening program to provide early diagnosis.
However, they say clinical trials are needed to confirm whether drugs that activate TLR2 in mice are also effective in humans.