Scientists from the University of Navarra have discovered a non-protein-coding RNA molecule that helps lung cancer cells multiply and hide from the body's immune cells. This data could help develop more effective treatments for especially dangerous and incurable cancers, Journal of Cell Biology reported.
Researchers analyzed more than 7,000 tumors and found that many lung cancer cells contain additional copies of the gene encoding a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA). These copies were named amplified lncRNA associated with lung cancer (ALAL-1). Tumors produce more ALAL-1 than healthy tissue. But a decrease in ALAL-1 levels reduces the proliferation of cancer cells and slows down the growth of tumors in mice.
ALAL-1 helps the USP4 enzyme to enter the cell nucleus, altering the activity of more than 1000 different genes. As a result, the production of a number of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules that attract immune cells that kill cancer cells is reduced. Patients with lung tumors and those with higher levels of ALAL-1 or extra copies of the ALAL-1 gene have fewer immune cells in the tumors, which may be the reason why cancer immune therapy is less effective.
It is hypothesized that the combination of K immunotherapy with ALAL-1 inhibitors may provide an opportunity to treat patients with tumors that do not respond to this type of treatment.