A cancer therapy in clinical development might be used to treat pulmonary fibrosis, or as a starting point to develop better antifibrotic treatments, German researchers suggest.

Their study, “FoxO3 an important player in fibrogenesis and therapeutic target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” appeared in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. In it, the team from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research explored how a molecule called FoxO3 is linked to fibrosis.

The cancer therapy reactivates a factor involved in cell growth, which acts as a molecular hub in several fibrotic processes, the team showed. FoxO3 normally acts to dampen cell growth and the development of fibrosis-producing cell types. In patients with lung fibrosis, it fails to do so.