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Scientists connect immune cell to likelihood of lung cancer

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says that almost all lung cancer deaths - the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. - are linked to smoking. However, between 10 and 20 percent of lung tumors, which could be detected with blood testing, develop in individuals who have never smoked.

Investigating this phenomenon, scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine (WU), St. Louis, discovered that the presence of natural immune cells in mice corresponded to their susceptibility to lung cancer.

"We want to know whether heavy smokers who don't get lung cancer have natural killer cells that are somehow better at destroying newly developing lung cancer cells," said Alexander Krupnick, associate professor of surgery and lead study author. "By comparison, do patients who have never smoked but develop lung cancer have weak natural killer cells?"

The WU analysts genetically engineered three types of mice with different levels of vulnerability to lung cancer. Once they administered a carcinogen to the animals, the group with the highest levels of tumor-killer cells resisted the illness, while the rest of the mice developed lung cancer.

According to the NCI, smoking could contribute to positive blood testing for other types of cancer, including throat, mouth, esophagus and stomach cancer.

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