Lung adenocarcinoma: identification of a new therapeutic target

Elisabetta Ferretti, Department of Experimental Medicine
Life Sciences

Lung cancer is the top cause of cancer-related death, and adenocarcinoma is the most frequent histotype. Surgery combined with aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy regimens represents the standard treatment, although the prognosis for most patients remains poor.

Targeting the cancer stem cell populations of these tumors might be a more effective strategy. These cells are considered the cancer-cell reservoir of the tumor and are known to be relatively resistant to current treatments.

The research group led by Elisabetta Ferretti (Professor at the Department of Experimental Medicine) recently identified the GLI1 transcription factor as a major molecular regulator of the cancer stem cells in lung adenocarcinoma. The results of this study were published in Oncogene Journal.

“The characterization of new molecular circuits is an important step toward an understanding of the complex biology governing these tumors", says Agnese Po, Researcher in the Department of Molecular Medicine of Sapienza University of Rome, “and our findings provide a rationale for the development of therapeutic strategies that include the targeting of GLI1, novel weapons that can be combined with therapies already in being used in the clinic or those currently being assessed in clinical trials”.

“We found that GLI1 acts downstream of pathways already known to be involved in lung adenocarcinoma” explains Elisabetta Ferretti, “and targeting this protein may prove to be a winning strategy for overcoming the drug resistance that is often the cause of treatment failure”.

The research group would like to dedicate these findings, with pride and gratitude, to the memory of Professor Alberto Gulino, Director of the Molecular Oncology Laboratory of the Sapienza University of Rome, who passed away prematurely in 2014. Professor Gulino’s profound knowledge of his field and his passion for research have inspired generations of scientists.


Team Leader
Elisabetta Ferretti
Dip. di Medicina sperimentale