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Respiration. 2011;81(5):353-8. doi: 10.1159/000326299. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Lung cancer in pulmonary fibrosis: tales of epithelial cell plasticity.

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  • 1Comprehensive Pneumology Center, Ludwig Maximilians University, University Hospital Grosshadern, and Helmholtz Zentrum München, Munich, Germany. melanie.koenigshoff @


Lung epithelial cells exhibit a high degree of plasticity. Alterations to lung epithelial cell function are critically involved in several chronic lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by repetitive injury and subsequent impaired repair of epithelial cells, which leads to aberrant growth factor activation and fibroblast accumulation. Increased proliferation and hyper- and metaplasia of epithelial cells upon injury have also been observed in pulmonary fibrosis; this epithelial cell activation might represent the basis for lung cancer development. Indeed, several studies have provided histopathological evidence of an increased incidence of lung cancer in pulmonary fibrosis. The mechanisms involved in the development of cancer in pulmonary fibrosis, however, remain poorly understood. This review highlights recently uncovered molecular mechanisms shared between lung cancer and fibrosis, which extend the current evidence of a common trait of cancer and fibrosis, as provided by histopathological observations.

Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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