January 06, 2012 -- Singapore scientists, headed by Dr Bing Lim, Associate Director of Cancer Stem Cell Biology at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), a research institute under the umbrella of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and Dr Elaine Lim, medical oncologist affiliated with Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), have, for the first time, identified a gene responsible for lung cancer. The finding, reported in the advanced online issue of Cell on 5 January 2012, is a huge step towards finding a cure for the disease.
A small number of cells, known as cancer stem cells or tumor-initiating cells (TIC), are responsible for the promotion of tumor growth. Dr Bing Lim’s team was successful in finding a marker, known as CD166, to identify these cells. With the finding of this marker, the team then made more inroads into the genomic study of the TICs, and discovered several genes that were important for the growth of cancer cells.
The metabolic enzyme known as glycine decarboxylase (GLDC) is a normal occurring enzyme in cells, present in small quantities. The scientists discovered that in abnormal instances when the level of GLDC rises significantly, it causes changes in the behavior of the cell, making it cancerous.