Recent research suggests a “conserved” gene called Nit1 may contribute to lung cancer development.

Conserved genes are found in a wide range of life forms, such as bacteria, insects, plants, and humans, and scientists believe they perform vital biological purposes.

Researchers from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) in Philadelphia found that Nit1’s production is considerably higher in common lung cancer compared to other cells. Additionally, lung tumor growth is suppressed when Nit1 is silenced.

The study suggests that Nit1 might offer a much-needed novel drug therapy target, according to the study’s lead investigator, Bo Lu, MD, PhD, a radiation oncologist at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at TJU.

“Lung cancer in most patients is becoming increasingly resistant to the therapies that exist today, making lung cancer the leading cause of cancer death worldwide,” Lu said in a press release. “There is a critical need for new agents, and an inhibitor of Nit1 may represent a new drug strategy.”

Lu’s colleague, Adam Dicker, MD, PhD, chair and professor of radiation oncology, pharmacology, and experimental therapeutics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, said the study is a “nice example of how research designed to understand basic mechanisms in lung cancer can lead to identification of possible new drug targets.”

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