Nav: Home

Gene variations alter risk of esophageal cancer

November 05, 2008

HOUSTON - Variations in a common gene pathway may affect esophageal cancer risk, a dangerous and rapidly increasing type of cancer, according to research by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Results of the study, which is the first to look at the association between variations in genes related to microRNAs (miRNAs) and esophageal cancer, are published in the November issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

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

To examine the potential roles of these variations in esophageal cancer, researchers looked at the relationships among 41 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 26 miRNA-related genes and risk of esophageal cancer. SNPs are places in the human genome that vary by a single DNA chemical building block or nucleotide.

Seven genotypes were significantly associated with esophageal cancer risk, and four more showed at least a borderline significance. The risk of esophageal cancer became higher in correlation to an increase in the number of the unfavorable genotypes present.

"This research showed not only that a single gene contributes to the risk of esophageal cancer, but more importantly that the joint effect of several genetic elements can increase risk," said the study's first author, Yuanqing Ye, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at M. D. Anderson.

Esophageal cancer ranks sixth in cancer-related deaths worldwide, and it is becoming more common. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,000 people will be diagnosed and more than 14,000 people will die of the disease in the United States this year.

"Incidence of esophageal cancer has increased six-fold in the past three decades, and the survival rate is poor," Wu said. "MicroRNAs are exciting because they can modulate the expression of so many human genes."

Major risk factors for esophageal cancer include tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and reflux disease. The high prevalence of these risk factors in the general population and rare occurrence of this disease provide a clue that genetic predisposition to the disease may play an important role.

Researchers recruited 346 people who were newly diagnosed with esophageal cancer at M. D. Anderson and matched them by age, gender and ethnicity to 346 people without cancer. Only results for Caucasians were reported because of the low numbers of other races that enrolled.

While patients tended to be current smokers and have higher body mass index (BMI), there was no difference between the two groups in alcohol consumption.

One of the most notable findings was a SNP in the mir423 region, which was associated with a significantly lower esophageal cancer risk. The protective effect was significant for smokers and nonsmokers 64 years old and younger, but not for older subjects.

Mir423 also is found in leukemia cells and is altered significantly in other diseases including heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Future large-scale, multi-center studies are necessary to confirm these findings, Wu said.

"Our ultimate goal is to construct a comprehensive risk prediction model that includes not only genetic factors, but epidemiological and clinical variables as well, in hopes of predicting the probability of developing esophageal cancer in general population," she said.
-end-
The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Multidisciplinary Research Program.

Co-authors with Wu and Ye were Jian Gu, Hushan Yang and Jie Lin, Department of Epidemiology, M. D. Anderson; Jaffer A. Ajani, Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Kenneth K. Wang, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic.

About M. D. Anderson

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. M. D. Anderson is one of only 41 Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For six of the past nine years, M. D. Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News and World Report.

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Related Cancer Articles:

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.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab