Tag Archives: Birth Defects

Scientists Discover Gene ‘Anchor’ Linked to Spread of Lung Cancer

The Lung Cancer Gene
The Lung Cancer Gene

One of the world’s deadliest cancers, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Its ability to metastasize and quickly spread to other organs in the body is what makes lung cancer so deadly. A new genetic discovery by scientists at the Salk Institute in California may help researchers devise a way to keep lung cancer from spreading and dramatically improve the long-term outcome of this deadly form of cancer.

Cancer Cells on the Move

As described in Medical News Today, Salk researchers have discovered a gene that helps lung cancer cells “pull up their anchors in the primary tumor,” making it possible for them to move to other parts of the body to form new tumors; a process called metastasis. Normal cells have a natural adhesion that acts like an anchor, keeping the cells firmly rooted in their proper place.

Genes Linked to Cell Adhesion

Scientists already knew that cancerous cells were able to overcome this natural adhesion and travel through the bloodstream to other organs. Previous studies had even shown that some cancer cells were able to manipulate cell anchors. But the Salk Institute research is the first to link communication between specific genes to cancer cell adhesion and explain how cancer cells are able to “up anchor.” When that communication breaks down, cancer cells are set free and start traveling.

In lab and animal experiments, Salk researchers were able to re-establish communication between anchoring genes and slow metastasis. Researchers are hopeful that further research will lead to a way to stop lung cancer from spreading.

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Birth Defects Linked to Higher Cancer Risk

Smiling young doctor holding a beautiful newborn baby.
Certain types of birth defects are linked to a higher cancer risk.

Children born with major birth defects face many challenges as they move through life. A new study adds cancer to the hurdles they and their families must overcome. University of Utah researchers have found that children with certain types of birth defects have a somewhat greater risk of developing cancer, a risk that could impact the 120,000 (3%) of American children born with major birth defects every year.

The study found that non-chromosomal birth defects double cancer risk for children under the age of 15, although risk was greatest during the first 5 years of life. However, increased cancer risk was not universal and was not associated with the most common birth defects. According to study findings, increased cancer risk was limited to specific birth defects: cleft palate, eye defects, microcephaly and certain heart and kidney defects. All of the cancers associated with these birth defects were linked to immature cells that develop in early childhood.

While previous studies have documented increased cancer risk for children with Down’s syndrome, which is a genetic birth defect caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, this study focused on cancer risk for children born with structural birth defects unrelated to chromosomal abnormalities. It is hoped that study results will lead to improved treatment and long-term outcomes for children with birth defects.

Traditional medical treatments for children with cancer carry their own risks. As we reported earlier, one study found that children who undergo chemotherapy have a high risk of developing life-threatening chronic diseases during their adult years. Issels’ integrated immunotherapy cancer treatments offer effective alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation.