Lymphangioleiomyomatosis: Current understanding and potential treatments

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Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare neoplastic disease affecting predominantly young women. Clinical symptoms of this progressive disease include dyspnoea, cough, recurrent pneumothorax, hemoptysis and chylothorax. LAM is generally aggressive in nature and ultimately results in respiratory failure. Important hallmark features of this metastatic disease include the formation of lesions of abnormal smooth muscle cells, cystic destruction of the lung tissue and lymphangiogenesis affecting the lungs, abdomen and lymphatics. Research over the last 10–15 years has significantly enhanced our understanding of the molecular and cellular processes associated with LAM. These processes include mutational inactivation of the tuberous sclerosis complex genes, TSC1 and TSC2, activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, enhanced cell proliferation and migration, lymphangiogenesis, metastatic spread through the blood and lymphatic circulations, sex steroid sensitivity and dysregulated autophagy. Despite this increased knowledge there is currently no cure for LAM and treatment options remain limited. Whilst the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin has shown some benefit in patients with LAM, with stabilisation of lung function and improved quality of life, cessation of treatment results in recurrence of the disease progression. This highlights the urgent need to identify novel targets and new treatment regimens. The focus of this review is to summarise our current understanding of the cellular and molecular processes associated with LAM and highlight emerging treatments.

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