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Irish researchers have discovered a breakthrough in lung cancer research which has the potential to halt the progression of the disease.

Professor Ken O’Byrne described the research as “very exciting” and part of a breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer.

Scientists at St. James’s Hospital and Trinity College Dublin conducted research which was partly funded by the Irish Cancer Society, that focused on the role of enzymes involved in blood clotting.

Blood clotting is much more prevalent in lung cancer patients, and the research focused on the effect of enzyme levels which play a role in clotting and how they are increased in lung cancer tissue.

Particular enzymes are known to break down normal cell tissue and inadvertently help cancer cells grow.

The Irish scientists targeted an enzyme called Thromboxane, a synthase which acts as a host as it allows lung cancer cells to invade tissues.

The research team carried out analysis on 650 samples on the targeted enzyme collected from lung cancer patients at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin. They focused on cell-lines that exhibited normal levels of the enzyme and as well as those that over-expressed the enzyme.

“If you inhibit the enzyme, you may inhibit the cancer growth. Not only have we demonstrated that if we make cancer cells over-express these enzymes, they grow and spread, you can use medications to block their activity. In those situations, the cancer growth is stopped and the invasion is reduced,” O’Byrne said.

“It is an exciting area for the future and gives us a hint of how we might move forward in battling lung cancer.

“You may convert this aggressive disease into a less aggressive disease over time and make it controllable,” he said.

He predicted that outcomes for lung cancer would be much better within five to 10 years.