Lung cancer target identified at Institute; Dr. Luke Hoeppner lab pinpoints protein involved in cancer growth

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, May 16, 2018


A new target leading to a potential novel therapy for lung cancer was discovered through research led by Dr. Luke Hoeppner, head of the Molecular Biology and Translational Cancer lab of The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota.

The research, published in “Communications Biology,” is a breakthrough for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.  Drs. Hoeppner, Sk. Kayum Alam and other colleagues discovered a protein called DARPP-32 accelerates lung cancer growth and helps cancer cells migrate.

“This discovery is important because it contributes to the foundation for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches,” said Hoeppner. “We know the health threat of lung cancer and we’re striving to significantly improve prognoses for lung cancer patients.” lung cancer growth through regulation of IKKα dependent cell migration” was a collaboration with researchers from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, and Mayo Clinic and included Drs. Matteo Astone, Ping Liu, Wei Zhang, Rui Kuang, Anja Roden, Aaron Mansfield along with Dane Hoffman, Stephanie Hall, and The Hormel Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) interns, Abbygail  Coyle and Erin Dankert.

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The research team used models and a large number of lung cancer samples from Mayo Clinic to show how the protein DARPP-32 contributes to a chain reaction of signals inside cells that leads to lung cancer growth. Because DARPP-32 helps lung cancer to grow, it may represent a new way to predict increasing severity of lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and worldwide among both men and women. The five-year survival rate of lung cancer patients is less than 15 percent, mainly because most patients are diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer and inevitably develop resistance to current therapies. The mutations and other mechanisms that drive lung cancer are not well understood so research is very important.

“Our research progress reflects a collaborative effort among scientists throughout the State of Minnesota,” said Dr. Hoeppner. “We’re also proud that two SURE interns at The Hormel Institute, Erin Dankert (summer of ’16) and Abbygail Coyle (summer of ’17), made significant contributions to this research.”

Hoeppner, Alam, and team are now working on translating this research so that it may be possibly used to help lung cancer patients. A specific form of DARPP-32 is overexpressed in lung cancer, and may represent a new target for lung cancer therapy. Currently, the research team is focusing on strategies to therapeutically target DARPP-32 to inhibit lung cancer growth.