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High expression of a gene known as HLJ1 appears to reduce the growth and spread of lung cancer cells, and is linked with improved patient survival. These results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 75%–80% of all lung cancers. Because survival among patients with NSCLC can vary greatly, even among patients with similar disease characteristics, researchers continue to explore factors that influence patient outcomes.

A tumor suppressor gene is a gene that prevents cell growth. If a mutation occurs in this gene, it may make the individual more susceptible to the development of cancer in the tissue where the mutation occurred.

The HLJ1 gene was identified as a potential tumor suppressor gene by researchers in Taiwan. To explore the role of this gene in NSCLC, the researchers explored expression of this gene in samples of lung cancer cells and in tumor tissue taken from lung cancer patients.

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  • In samples of lung cancer cells, the samples that had higher expression of HLJ1 appeared to behave less aggressively. Higher HLJ1 expression was linked with decreased cell growth and invasiveness.
  • In patients with lung cancer, HLJ1 expression tended to be lower in lung cancer tissue than in nearby normal tissue.
  • NSCLC patients with higher expression of HLJ1 in their lung tumors had a lower risk of cancer recurrence and longer survival than patients with lower expression of HLJ1.

The researchers conclude that HLJ1 is a newly identified tumor suppressor gene in NSCLC. Higher expression of HLJ1 was linked with improved patient survival and a lower risk of lung cancer recurrence. The researchers note that because this study included only Asian patients, it’s still uncertain whether the findings will apply to other populations.

If these findings are confirmed, information about expression of this gene could provide prognostic information for patients with NSCLC and could influence treatment decisions.

Reference: Tsai M-F, Wang C-C, Chang G-C et al. A New Tumor Suppressor DnaJ-like Heat Shock Protein, HLJ1, and Survival of Patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma. Journal of the National Cancer Institute . 2006;98:825-38.

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