Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have discovered that a series of chemical signals sent out by collagen, a human body protein and stuff of ligaments and skin, may protect against cancer growth, including squamous cell lung cancer.
In the new study, the ICR team not only explored the role of the signals triggered by collagen in human embryonic kidney cells, but also found that strengthening them could act as an effective treatment for cancers.
Funded by ICR, the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the study suggested that these chemical signals could prove effective for cancers that grow in the presence of collagen.
Squamous cell cancer is one such form of cancer that accounts for about 25% of all lung cancer cases.
ICR protein networks team leader Dr Paul Huang said that the team knew collagen was capable of slowing the growth of some cancer types, presumably by maintaining the structure of tissues.
"We sifted through data on 428 different proteins stimulated by collagen, and isolated just one we think can play a key role in protecting tissues from cancer," Huang said.
ICR CEO Alan Ashworth said that the new study is valuable for two reasons, it identifies an exciting new potential route for treating lung cancers, and also shows us why some other approaches are unlikely to work.
"Scientifically, these results are very interesting as they demonstrate how one of the most common proteins in the human body plays a role not only in building the structure of tissues but also in cancer," Ashworth said.