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International study identifies new genetic risk factors for testicular cancer

June 13, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. (June 13, 2017) - Testicular cancer is relatively rare with only 8,850 cases expected this year in the United States. A majority of testicular cancer, 95 percent of all cases, begins in testicular germ cells, which are the cells responsible for producing sperm. Testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT) are the most common cancer in men aged 20 to 39 years in the U.S. and Europe. Peter Kanetsky, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the Cancer Epidemiology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center, and colleagues from the International TEsticular CAncer Consortium (TECAC), launched a large analysis of five major testicular cancer studies to investigate genetic risk factors linked to TGCT. Their results, which uncovered eight new genetic markers associated with TGCT, were published in the June 12 issue of Nature Genetics.

The incidence of TGCT has been increasing around the world throughout the past 50 years. Between 1973 and 2003, the number of men diagnosed with TGCT rose by 54 percent. TGCT is also more prevalent in certain populations. Men who are of Northern European ancestry have the highest incidence of TGCT, while men of African decent have the lowest incidence.

Scientists are unsure why the incidence of TGCT has been increasing or why it is more prevalent in certain populations. Their goal is to identify risk factors for TGCT to increase their understanding of how it arises and to identify those patients who may develop TGCT to prevent progression and treat the disease earlier.

It is believed that some TGCT risk factors may be inherited. Men who have a father with TGCT are four times more likely to develop it, and the risk increases eight-fold if they have a brother with TGCT. Approximately 30 genetic risk factors have been identified so far, but these do not completely account for all of the potential heritable risks.

TECAC combined data from five previous genome-wide association studies, providing researchers with more than 3,500 TGCT cases internationally to review. Their analysis identified eight new genetic markers that are associated with an increased risk of developing TGCT and refined four previously reported susceptibility regions.

"Our findings substantially increase the number of known susceptibility genes associated with TGCT. This moves the field closer to a comprehensive understanding of the underlying genetic architecture and development of the disease," Kanetsky said.
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Kanetsky is a co-senior author of the study, along with Katherine L. Nathanson, M.D., a professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of Penn's Abraham Cancer Center. The paper's lead author is Zhaoming Wang, who completed the study while at the National Cancer Institute. Funding for study was provided by the National Cancer Institute's Clinical Genetics Branch Familial Testicular Cancer Project (NCI 02-C-0178, NCT-0039598), TECAC (U01CA164947) and the National Institutes of Health (CA114478).

About Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt's excellence in research, clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 6 cancer hospital in the nation and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the "Best Hospitals" for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2.5 million square feet to research and patient care. Moffitt's expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 5,200 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.1 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

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