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Health Team

UNC researchers make break-through in lung cancer research

Posted June 20, 2018 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:18 a.m. EDT

— With lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, one UNC cancer researcher may have found a key reason why the disease is so prevalent.

The discovery could lead to new drugs and strategies that may help with developing treatments for other cancers, researchers say.

UNC oncologist and cancer researcher Dr. Chad Pecot said with certain types of lung cancer, tumors seek the help of certain immune cells to help it spread.

“What we were finding was that the patients whose tumors were full of these immune cells were dying faster,” he said.

UNC researchers make break-through in lung cancer research

The "blue" in microscopic images is a tumor called "lung squamous carcinoma,” which accounts for about 30 percent of lung cancer cases.

It attracts the green and red immune cells, including a protein called "Factor 13,” known for blood clotting, like in a bleeding vessel.

Immune cells are supposed to help the body fight tumors and other ailments. foes like tumors.

Pecot and his research team found that without clotting present, the cancer doesn't grow. But clot formation offers the tumor a chance to spread.

The findings, which are published in the Nature Communications journal, could lead to new cancer fighting strategies.

“So, there's drugs already available that we are now planning to take to clinical trial that we are actually going to use to block these immune cells,” Pecot said.

Simple blood thinning medications may also help with treatment.

Researchers said the challenge is to determine which lung cancer patients could benefit and whether the therapies may also apply to other types of cancers.

Pecot said although lung cancer has a reputation for being the most deadly cancer, he said because of great strides in research, and patients have a chance for a cure.