Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In addition to genetic abnormalities induced by cigarette smoke, several epidemiologic studies have found that smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory disease of the lungs, have an increased risk of lung cancer (1.3- to 4.9-fold) compared to smokers without COPD. This suggests a link between chronic airway inflammation and lung carcinogenesis, independent of tobacco smoke exposure. We studied this association by assaying the inflammatory impact of products of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae, which colonizes the airways of patients with COPD, on lung cancer promotion in mice with an activated K-ras mutation in their airway epithelium. Two new mouse models of lung cancer were generated by crossing mice harboring the LSL–K-rasG12D allele with mice containing Cre recombinase inserted into the Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) locus, with or without the neomycin cassette excised (CCSPCre and CCSPCre-Neo, respectively). Lung lesions in CCSPCre-Neo/LSL–K-rasG12D and CCSPCre/LSL–K-rasG12D mice appeared at 4 and 1 month of age, respectively, and were classified as epithelial hyperplasia of the bronchioles, adenoma, and adenocarcinoma. Weekly exposure of CCSPCre/LSL–K-rasG12D mice to aerosolized nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae lysate from age 6–14 weeks resulted in neutrophil/macrophage/CD8 T-cell–associated COPD-like airway inflammation, a 3.2-fold increase in lung surface tumor number (156 ± 9 versus 45 ± 7), and an increase in total lung tumor burden. We conclude that COPD-like airway inflammation promotes lung carcinogenesis in a background of a G12D-activated K-ras allele in airway secretory cells
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