The most common type of lung cancer (squamous cell lung cancer) causes more death than breast, colorectal or prostate cancer each year. But squamous cell carcinoma has no treatments available that target the specific genetic alterations which drive this form of cancer. Scientists have succeeded to identify many potential therapeutic targets based on a large number and variety of DNA alterations. The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network have made this exciting discovery. The results were published in Nature (doi:10.1038/nature11404) under the title ‘Comprehensive genomic characterization of squamous cell lung cancers’. The researchers identified mutations or amplifications in three families of tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes that act like power switches for many cellular functions. The above researchers also found genomic alterations in signaling pathways paving the way for treatment of this type of cancer. In another striking finding, the researchers discovered mutations in the HLA-A (Human Leukocyte Antigens-A) gene that slows down the function in tumor cells. This is the first example of a tumor that has a genomic mechanism for evading an immune response. This may be important in understanding the immune response of squamous cell carcinoma and also envisioning how immune-regulatory therapy might be used to counter this disease. This study clearly shows that squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer resulting from diverse genomic causes, many of which are potentially susceptible to drug inhibition. This provides many new therapeutic opportunities for treatment of squamous cell carcinoma leading to clinical trials. The current study takes us to the next level in terms of identifying a number of potentially interesting targets to work on. More….