Interview With Christopher Amos, Ph.D. - Genetic Risk Found for Lung Cancer

From M. D. Anderson Newsroom
Duration: 03:38

Narrator:
An international research team led by M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's Department of Epidemiology has found two specific genetic variations that significantly increase the risk of non-small cell lung cancer in current and former smokers. Study lead author Christopher Amos, Ph.D., says this discovery, published in the current issue of Nature Genetics, advances the search for genetic markers related to lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths among Americans.

Dr. Amos:
This is the first study that’s identified a common genetic variant that influences the risk for developing lung cancer.

Narrator:
The team includes cancer researchers from England and Texas. Amos says that up to half the population has at least one version of the two genetic “snips”, or places in the human genome that vary by a single DNA chemical building block.

Researchers looked at 317,498 snips in 8,709 Caucasians in Texas and the United Kingdom. Individuals who have ever smoked and who have one or two copies of either of the two snips have increased risks of lung cancer in a range of 28 to 81 percent.

Dr. Amos:
The main risk factor for developing lung cancer is smoking. What we don’t really know well enough are the specific components of tobacco smoke that cause lung cancer. There are so many different compounds, that it’s hard to separate them and we don’t fully understand the mechanisms given that you’re exposed to tobacco smoke that cause lung cancer. So if we can identify genetic factors, then we can get a better handle on how those genetic factors increase risk and what pathways are involved.

Narrator:
The two snips were found in a region of chromosome 15. There are five genes in that area, and the researchers’ next job is to track down which are affected by the genetic snips. Three of those genes are nicotine receptor genes. Amos says that raises the possibility that nicotine, whose addictive properties are well-known, might also be involved in the birth and growth of cancer.

Dr. Amos:
It also raises the point that it’s likely that nicotine itself may play a role, or at least it raises a question about that, because these genes have to do with cell growth. The nicotine acetylcholine receptor genes have to do with cell growth following nicotine exposure.

Narrator:
Amos says the research team will be testing its results in lung cancer and normal tissue cells, as well as expanding the study to include African-Americans and people who have never smoked.

Research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, and tapped an ongoing study of M. D. Anderson lung cancer patients that’s been active since 1991.

Dr. Amos:
We are very indebted to the patients that have participated in the study. There’s no immediate benefit to them, but their help has been invaluable and being able to do this analysis and should be useful to future individuals who develop lung cancer.

Narrator:
For more information on this topic, visit mdanderson.org/newsroom.

 

Videographer/Editor: Deborah E. Thomas
Narrator: Lisa Garvin
Script writer: Lisa Garvin
/Scott Merville