Genome scans provide clues to brain cancer risk
(18 July 2009: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- Common genetic variations may increase a person’s risk of developing brain cancer, and it is now possible to identify these potential risk factors. In two genome-wide association studies, researchers have discovered and validated a small number of inherited genetic variants linked to the disease. The causes of brain cancer are not well understood, and the findings, published online in Nature Genetics July 5, could provide clues for investigating the inherited component of disease risk.
In one study, researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom scanned the DNA of 1,900 patients with gliomas, the most common brain tumor, and several thousand unaffected individuals. The top “hits” among the patients pointed to five genes, including CDKN2A, which plays a role in activating the tumor-suppressor gene p53. Another gene, TERT, is known to be active in tumors.
Four of the five genes turned up in the second study, led by Dr. Margaret Wrensch of the University of California, San Francisco. In addition, two genes, CDKN2A and CDKN2B, were implicated in the risk of melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer. This evidence appeared in separate studies also published by Nature Genetics.
“Some of the genes suspected in brain cancer are crossing over to other types of cancer, and it appears that there may be some common risk genes in cancer,” said coauthor Dr. Melissa Bondy of M.D. Anderson. She noted that the results represent a new beginning. “This is a hard tumor to understand. But we now have the technology to untangle the puzzle that we’ve been trying to work on for so many years.”
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