Major study links aging gene to blood cancer

August 18, 2013

A gene that helps control the ageing process by acting as a cell's internal clock has been linked to cancer by a major new study.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found a genetic variant that influences the ageing process among four new variants they linked to myeloma - one of the most common types of blood cancer.

The study more than doubles the number of genetic variants linked to myeloma, bringing the total number to seven, and sheds important new light on the genetic causes of the disease.

The research, published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics today (Sunday), was mainly funded by charities Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and Myeloma UK, with additional support from Cancer Research UK.

Myeloma affects around 4,700 patients each year, and is caused by genetic mutations in white blood cells, which normally help fight infection and injury. Less than four in 10 sufferers survive the disease for more than five years, and three in 10 die within a year (1).

One genetic marker found by the researchers is linked to a gene called TERC, which regulates the length of the telomere 'caps' on the ends of DNA. In healthy cells, these caps erode over time - causing tissues to age - but some cancer cells seem able to ignore the ageing trigger in order to keep on dividing. If further studies confirm the link, TERC could be a target for future myeloma treatments.

The team found the new markers by comparing the genetic make-up of a total of 4,692 myeloma patients with DNA from 10,990 people without the disease. A previous UK study led by the team, from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and funded by Myeloma UK, found three genetic variants, or 'spelling mistakes' in DNA, which lead to increased risk of developing myeloma.

The team found the new batch of genetic variants by combining their samples with others from researchers in Germany. The combined results gave the scientists more data and therefore greater statistical accuracy.

All of the four new genetic variants are close to genes which are likely to play important roles in causing myeloma.

Study co-leader Professor Richard Houlston, Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics at The Institute of Cancer Research, said:

"Our study has taken an important step forward in understanding the genetics of myeloma, and suggested an intriguing potential link with a gene that acts as a cell's internal timer.

"We know cancer often seems to ignore the usual controls over ageing and cell death, and it will be fascinating to explore whether in blood cancers that is a result of a direct genetic link. Eventually, understanding the complex genetics of blood cancers should allow us to assess a person's risk or identify new avenues for treatment."

In people affected by myeloma, white blood cells called plasma cells grow uncontrollably in the bone marrow and become stuck there, disrupting normal blood production. It can be very painful, and affects bones in multiple parts of the body.

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said:

"The identification of these risk gene variants offers more compelling evidence that susceptibility to myeloma can be inherited. Myeloma remains incurable and the effect on patients' quality of life can be devastating.

"By showing how these specific genes influence the cancer's development, this research could potentially lead to the development of targeted myeloma drugs in the future. In addition we know that a common condition called MGUS predisposes to the development of myeloma. The identification of additional genetic risk factors in these patients could revolutionise their future management and prospects."

Heather McKinnon, Clinical Research Programme Manager for Myeloma UK,, said:

"We are delighted the original study funded by Myeloma UK two years ago into genetic inheritance in myeloma has now led to further important research. The study published today in Nature Genetics identifies four more genetic variations in myeloma and for the first time demonstrates an association with ageing. Myeloma UK is committed to supporting this important research and invests in a programme of work at The Institute of Cancer Research."
-end-


Institute of Cancer Research

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.