Scope 43 - Searching for an effective therapy for rare lung disease

15 October 2010, Cancer

LAM or Lymphangioleiomyomatosis is a devastating progressive lung disease that few have heard of. However, for the 21 New Zealand women who suffer from the disease, LAM is a big deal.

LAM causes shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing and lung collapse and there is no known cure. Because LAM is so rare it doesn't receive a lot of attention. Malaghan Institute scientists Prof Mike Berridge and Dr James Baty hope to change this by using their innovative cancer research to help LAM sufferers in a small but significant way.

Although LAM is not presently classified as a cancer, LAM cells have cancer-like properties such as loss of cell growth control, mutations and the ability to spread elsewhere in the body. With support from the NZ LAM Trust and the LAM Australasia Research Alliance, Dr Baty is taking a closer look at LAM cells to find out if there is a small population of cells with cancer stem cell-like properties. If these cells exist in LAM, they will need to be targeted for effective LAM therapy.

Dr Baty says the driving force behind his research is his desire to help people for whom there are very few treatment options currently available. He enjoys the challenge of deciphering the many signalling pathways involved with cell growth, proliferation and survival that are deregulated in LAM patients, and believes the most effective approach for treating these individuals might be with immunological therapies and/or drug treatments currently in use for cancer patients.

Both Dr Baty and LAM Trust Director Bronwyn Gray recently attended the 1st European LAM Conference held in Udine, Italy.