News from ASCO GI Conference: Researchers identify hereditary, predictive genetic variation for aggressive gastric cancer

22 Jan 2010

Investigators report for the first time that they have identified an inherited genetic variation in patients
with gastric (stomach) cancer that predicts more aggressive disease. Researchers found that patients with
this variation – located on the CD44 gene – experienced recurrence more than three times sooner than
patients without this variation.

“If our findings are confirmed in larger, prospective clinical trials, testing for the CD44 variation could
help us identify patients who would benefit from more aggressive treatment, as well as facilitate the
development of therapies targeting this genetic variation,” said lead author Thomas Winder, MD, a
postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Southern California.

The CD44 gene regulates the production of a protein associated with cell adhesion (the loss of which is
associated with cancer development) and metastasis in digestive cancers. Altered CD44 may also make
cancer cells more resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

In this study, Dr. Winder and his colleagues analysed the association between the presence of the CD44
variation and the time to recurrence in 104 patients with localized gastric cancer at the University of
Southern California. They found that patients who had the CD44 variation had a significantly shorter time
to recurrence (2.1 years) compared to those without this variation (7 years).

Because the genetic variation is inherited, it is theoretically possible that this finding could be used to
develop a genetic test to predict an individual’s risk of developing gastric cancer before it develops.
However, Dr. Winder cautioned that epidemiological studies need to be conducted to further characterize
and confirm the role of this genetic variation in gastric cancer development.

Source: ASCO