But only 30 per cent of patients benefit and, along the way, they often develop serious side effects including kidney damage.
The scientists, led by Professor Neil Watkins, were trying to figure out why chemotherapy wasn't more effective.
As Watkins pondered a large map of a dataset, he recalled de Kretser talking about follistatin and suddenly, saw a possible connection.
This week, an elegant and compelling study has been published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.
It is proof of principle that mixing follistatin with the chemotherapy, not only turbocharges its effectiveness but prevents devastating kidney damage.
In mice it increased the odds of success from 10 to 70 per cent. Their lung tumours shrunk, they were protected against kidney damage and survived longer.
If this translates to humans – and there is a strong expectation it will - it could transform treatment for many lung cancer patients.
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