Lung cancer susceptibility genes

3 Nov 2008

Large international study identifies genetic susceptibility to lung cancer

In a paper published yesterday in Nature Genetics, a worldwide consortium of investigators present a major breakthrough for understanding the genetic basis of lung cancer.

The results are based on the largest genetic study of lung cancer ever conducted, and was organised by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, Lyon, France), the Centre National de Génotypage (CNG, Evry, France), with support from the Institut National du Cancer (Paris, France).

The study brought together a research team from 18 countries who investigated DNA variants in more than 15,000 people: 6000 with lung cancer and 9000 without.  The new lung cancer region is located on the 5th human chromosome and contains two known genes, TERT and CRR9, either of which might be the culprit. “We think TERT is the most likely candidate” CNG Director Mark Lathrop said. “It’s a gene that encodes part of telomerase, an enzyme critically linked to cancer development. It’s the stand out candidate”.

Two separate risk variants were found by the investigators, and they increased life time lung cancer risk by up to 60%, depending on the number of copies a person carries. The risk was also present in both smokers and never-smokers. Nevertheless, such a change in risk is dwarfed by the lung cancer risk that results from smoking tobacco. “So stopping smoking or never starting is still the best way to avoid lung cancer, irrespective of your genes” noted Dr Paul Brennan, head of the research group at IARC.  “Rather than telling us who exactly is going to get lung cancer, these results give us a better understanding of the disease. Treatments for lung cancer are still very poor, and this will hopefully lead us to better diagnostic and treatment options”. 






"Lung cancer susceptibility locus at 5p15.33” James D McKay et al.  Published online 2nd November 2008.

(DOI :10.1038/ng.254