Researchers have identified novel gene mutations that can lead to lung cancer1. The mutations in a gene that encodes a protein called fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 are potential drug targets for developing new therapies.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers among men in India, and targeted treatments are urgently needed.

Geneticists from Tata Memorial Centre and Homi Bhabha National Institute, both in Mumbai, studied the genome of 363 Indian patients with lung cancer. They homed in on novel genetic mutations in the fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) gene encoding FGFR3 protein, which regulates cell growth, forms blood vessels and helps heal wounds.

Of the 20 patients with FGFR3 mutations, 4 harboured novel mutations. The FGFR3 mutations were then validated in cultured cancer cells and in transgenic mice expressing lung tumours. Treating the mice with FGFR inhibitors showed that the lung tumours were susceptible to drugs, offering a treatment option for cancer patients.

“This study presents the first comprehensive picture of Indian lung cancer patients, making it potentially useful to rationalize targeted therapies using approved anticancer drugs,” says lead scientist, Amit Dutt from the Tata Memorial Centre.