Cancer Research UK-funded scientists based at the University of Cambridge have identified a new target for the treatment of lung squamous cell carcinoma.

Their research, published in Nature Communications, found that lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) cells contain high amounts of a protein called BCL11A, and that manipulating the gene responsible for this protein halted development of the disease in mice.

The study also revealed a signalling pathway that BCL11A was involved in, and identified a potential druggable target, called SETD8.

“How LUSC develops is a bit of puzzle – until now our molecular understanding of this process was limited,” aid Our research has revealed a major piece of this puzzle, which we are now actively trying to make new drugs against.”

The findings have triggered further funding from Cancer Research UK to advance development of a drug able to target this protein, in the hope of ultimately bringing some patients with the disease a new treatment option.

“Identifying potentially druggable targets is an early yet crucial stage in the journey towards precision medicine,” said Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist.

“While there is much to be done before this work could be translated into patient benefit, it’s a fundamental step towards that goal and we look forward to seeing how this discovery progresses along the research pipeline.”