A team of University of California, San Diego researchers, led by Michael Karin, has identified a protein that enhances the growth and spread of lung cancer cells by stimulating inflammation in the cells. The discovery, reported in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Nature, could lead to therapies that would slow the spread of the deadly disease.

The protein, called versican, is secreted by metastatic (spreading) lung cancer cells and activates receptors, called TLR2, which produce inflammation-causing proteins.

“If we can find a way to block the production of versican, or its binding to TLR2, therapeutic intervention could be used to limit metastasis of lung cancer,” Karin said in a press release.

Karin, a UCSD professor of pharmacology and pathology, was the first researcher to establish a link between inflammation and the spread of cancer. In 1999, the magazine Science Watch named him the most cited researcher in America.

DAVID WASHBURN

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