Deborah Gumucio, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Cell and Developmental Biology and Kate Walton, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor (Gumucio Laboratory), University of Michigan Medical School
“You’ve got lung cancer.” “What?? I’ve never smoked and have never been chronically exposed to second-hand smoke!!” Surprisingly ~150,000 cases of solitary lung nodules are found on chest X-rays every year (many in non-smokers) and some of these are in fact, early cancers. Lung adenocarcinomas are the most frequent type of the so-called non small-cell lung cancers in never-smokers. This image shows the edge of an adenocarcinoma (bottom) as it invades the normal, airy, delicate lung tissue (top). This happens to be my own lung; I am thrilled to be rid of this invader! The brown nuclear stain in the image marks the expression of a nuclear factor known as TTF1, which is diagnostic for the adenocarcinoma. While this protein is only expressed in a few of the normal cells (the type II pneumocytes that make surfactant), all of the cancer cells are positive for this protein, giving them a heavy and ominous appearance.