Discovery could lead to more targeted lung cancer treatments

03 December 2014

Toronto -

New findings from a study – funded in part by the Canadian Cancer Society – may lead to more targeted treatments for the thousands of Canadians diagnosed each year with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of this deadly disease.

A team of researchers in Toronto discovered that the proteins found in lung tumours are dramatically different from those in normal lung tissue and can predict patient survival. Pinpointing which proteins are driving tumour growth could lead to individualized treatments which are better tailored to a patient’s cancer and could lead to improved survival.

The study findings were published online today in the journal Nature Communications.

The research team, led by Dr Michael Moran at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) along with Drs Ming Tsao and Thomas Kislinger and other colleagues at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, analyzed samples of normal lung and NSCLC tumours at the molecular level.

Scientists know that cancer is a result of mutations in genes, but much less is known about the role played by changes in the tens of thousands of different proteins inside each cell – known collectively as the proteome. Dr Moran and his team analyzed thousands of proteins and the genes that encode them (that is, provide the instructions for the creation of proteins), in normal lung and NSCLC tissue samples. They found vast differences between the proteomes of tumours and normal lungs, and were surprised to find patterns among the tumour proteins linked to patient survival.

Researchers have long known that altered metabolism is a prominent feature in tumour cells, but only very few among the hundreds of known metabolism genes are known to be mutated, and therefore implicated as causing cancer. This study indicates that a principal mechanism by which lung tumours alter their metabolism is by remodelling their proteomes in the absence of gene mutations.

With this study, Dr Moran and his research colleagues have gleaned an unprecedented large-scale view of the molecular landscape of NSCLC. “If we can grasp a better understanding about the metabolism of proteins that lead to the development and progression of cancer, it will enable us to develop better, more targeted treatments, and match them with patients likely to respond,” says Dr Moran, who is a professor of molecular genetics and Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). It is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada. The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer, which represents about 85%–90% of all lung cancers

Through our generous donors and rigorous peer-review process, the Canadian Cancer Society funds the best cancer research in Canada. Our funded researchers work in universities, hospitals and research centres across the country and are mapping new ways to change cancer forever. For more information, visit or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Kelly

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416-934-5321