A defective protein might be a key go-between in the string of terrible molecular events that lead to lung cancer. The protein, called Rac1b, gets activated by other compounds and launches cells in smokers’ lungs toward malignant behavior, experiments in human cells and mice suggest.
The findings open the door for lung cancer researchers to investigate the molecular chain reaction, or pathway, in which Rac1b is involved. Since Rac1b seems to show up early in lung cancer, it might also make a target for diagnosis or early-stage treatment, researchers report in the July 11 Science Translational Medicine.
“This is really comprehensive work,” says Farrah Kheradmand, a pulmonologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who wasn’t part of the study team. “This gives us ammunition to go after Rac1b, an inconspicuous molecule, to try to inhibit it.”
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