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Study Reveals Cause of Chemoresistance in Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Published on : Apr 22, 2016

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. In small cell lung cancer (SCLC), also known as oat cell carcinoma, malignant cells start forming tumours in lungs, especially across the breathing tubes or bronchi. It is one of the aggressive forms of cancer and mostly affects smokers. The common symptoms of SCLC are shortness of breath, chest pain, bloody phlegm, and cough. Small cell lung cancer spread faster than non-small cell lung cancer. The common treatment options for SCLC include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation depending upon the severity of the disease. SCLC accounts for around 10-15% of all lung cancer cases. According to the American Cancer Society, around 224,390 new cases of lung cancer are expected to be registered in 2016. 

Why Small Cell Lung Cancer Displays Chemoresistance?

SCLC is usually not detected until it reaches advanced stages when metastases have already developed. Though chemotherapy is initially very effective, the cancer relapses within a year and is unresponsive to chemotherapy. Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna have discovered clues that cause chemoresistance in small cell lung cancer. The individual circulating tumor cells are sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. But when these circulating tumor cells form clusters with oxygen-deprived cores, they become unresponsive to chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. In chemotherapy, drugs cannot penetrate effectively into the clusters while in radiotherapy, lack of oxygen in cluster cores leads to unavailability of oxygen radicals needed to destroy the cancer cells. Resisting the cluster-formation ability of individual circulating tumor cells is expected to lead to effective treatment of the disease. This new finding is anticipated to develop new therapeutic approaches regarding the treatment of SCLC.