Field cancerization in non-small cell lung cancer: implications in disease pathogenesis

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2012 May;9(2):38-42. doi: 10.1513/pats.201201-004MS.


Lung cancer, of which non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) composes the majority, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and worldwide. NSCLCs are tumors with complex biology that we have recently started to understand with the advent of various histological, transcriptomic, genomic, and proteomic technologies. However, the histological and molecular pathogenesis of this malignancy, in particular of adenocarcinomas, is still largely unknown. Earlier studies have highlighted a field cancerization phenomenon in which histologically normal-appearing tissue adjacent to neoplastic and pre-neoplastic lesions display molecular abnormalities, some of which are in common with those in the tumors. This review will summarize advances in understanding the field cancerization phenomenon and the potential relevance of this knowledge to gain important and novel insights into the molecular pathogenesis of NSCLC as well as to subsequent development of biomarkers for early detection of lung cancers and possibly personalized prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Precancerous Conditions / metabolism*
  • Proteomics