There is hope for patients with lung cancer and emphysema as a group of Australian scientists found a way to detect lung cancer or emphysema before they spread in one’s body. They also discovered a breakthrough drug that could stop lung cancer or emphysema.

Researchers from the Melbourne’s Hudson Institute of Medical Science claim that the molecule Interleukin 6 (Il-6) causes inflammation, which triggers these two fatal illnesses. Their study took six years.

Blood tests are already developed to help detect abnormal amounts of this molecule. This could mean that a screening process based on these blood tests could be effective in identifying the earliest signs before these diseases can cause problems.

lung cancer

Cancer cells. Credit: Dr. Triche/ National Cancer Institute

“The beauty of the two studies we have done is that we have shown that yes, the molecule is increased in the blood and tissue biopsies, but more importantly, we have shown that if you target Il-6 and block it, you will see a suppression of disease in both lung cancer and emphysema,” points out the study’s lead researcher Brendan Jenkins. “We have now identified a way of targeting Il-6.”

The research team found that a drug called sgp130Fc prevents Il-6 from functioning and switching on the diseases. This drug sticks to the molecule and prevents it from attaching to lung cells.

The drug is also used to help fight another disease. Sgp130Fc is currently being tested against inflammatory bowel disease in human clinical trials in Europe.

When the researchers used the drug on mice, they found that it was very effective at blocking and slowing down the growth of tumors. They also found that the mice treated with it do not develop emphysema.

The discovery could help 15,000 Australians who die of lung cancer annually. As of now, the team is improving blood tests for emphysema and lung cancer.