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The Power of a Single Gene

Conquest - Spring 2009

Xifeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D. (right), professor
in the Department of Epidemiology, works
closely with Di Zhang, coordinator in the
research laboratory.

Variations in a common gene pathway may affect the risk of esophageal cancer, a dangerous and rapidly increasing type of cancer that now ranks sixth in cancer-related deaths worldwide.

Results of the study, which is the first to look at the association between variations in genes related to microRNAs (miRNAs) and esophageal cancer, found seven genotypes that were significantly associated with esophageal cancer risk and four more that showed at least borderline significance.

“Previous research has shown miRNAs control approximately one-third of human genes and may play a part in cancer risk,” says the study’s lead author, Xifeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D., professor in
M. D. Anderson’s Department of Epidemiology. “But whether genetic variants of miRNA-related genes influence esophageal cancer has largely remained unknown.”

“This research showed not only that a single gene contributes to the risk of esophageal cancer, but more important, that the joint effect of several genetic elements also can increase risk,” says the study’s first author, Yuanqing Ye, Ph.D., an instructor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Epidemiology.

Reported in the November 2008 issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center