The brain-gut hormones, gastrin and cholecystokinin, have a trophic effect on the gastrointestinal mucosa in vivo and promote the growth of several neoplastic cell lines. In this study, cholecystokinin-B/gastrin receptor has been demonstrated to provide a novel molecular marker for the diagnosis of small cell lung cancer by using biopsy specimens. Physiological expression of the receptor mRNA is detectable in particular areas of the human brain, stomach, and pancreas but not in the lung. The receptor mRNA was detected selectively in all small cell lung cancer (10 cases) with a RT-PCR assay. By contrast, it was detectable in only 1 of 13 squamous cell carcinomas or 21 adenocarcinomas of the lung. Thus, the cholecystokinin-B/gastrin receptor could be an attractive therapeutic target for small cell lung cancer.


This study was supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research and Cancer Research from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japan.

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