The gene SOX2 is activated in lung and esophageal squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), according to a study published online in this week's Nature Genetics. This discovery highlights a new link between stem cells and cancer.
SCC is a type of cancer that can form in several organs, including the skin, mouth, esophagus, urinary bladder, prostate, and lung. About 25-30% of lung cancers are SCC of the lung and are linked to smoking. SCC of the esophagus occurs in less than 10% of all esophageal cancers and is associated with both smoking and alcohol consumption.
Matthew Meyerson and colleagues find that the gene SOX2 is over-activated in both lung and esophageal SCC. SOX2 is an important gene for esophagus and tracheal development, and is also important in reprogramming mature cells to pluripotent stem cells.