Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cancer: do they really look similar?

BMC Med. 2015 Sep 24:13:220. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0478-1.


Background: The aim of this opinion article is to understand to what extent idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) can be considered, in its clinical and pathogenic features, similar to cancer. Indeed, IPF has common risk factors with cancer, a low survival, and, most importantly, epigenetic and genetic alterations, abnormal expression of microRNAs, cellular and molecular aberrances, and the activation of similar signalling pathways.

Discussion: The pathogenic link between the two diseases may have a number of practical consequences. It may improve our understanding of IPF drawing on cancer biology knowledge. In addition, the recognition of similar pathogenic pathways may also encourage the use of cancer drugs for the treatment of IPF. Nintedanib, an inhibitor of tyrosine kinase receptors initially developed for cancer, has been recently approved for the treatment of IPF thanks to the observation that these receptors are also abnormally activated in IPF. The vision of IPF as a cancer-like disease may improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease also opening new scenarios for repositioning cancer drugs for IPF. In addition, it may increase the level of awareness towards this dreadful disease at the public, political, and healthcare level.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction