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Chromosomal Changes Linked to Family History of Lung Cancer

Chromosomal Changes Linked to Family History of Lung Cancer

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have found that changes in a certain chromosome may indicate lung cancer susceptibility and may be linked to a family history of cancer.

The new study, published in the April 15th issue of Cancer, could be important in identifying a "genetic marker" for lung cancer and other cancers that may be inherited.

Lung cancer is one of the most difficult cancer to diagnose in its early stages. Although 90% of lung cancers occur in smokers, this cancer also strikes nonsmokers and former smokers. Scientists are attempting to identify cofactors that might predispose people to lung cancer. Finding such predictors of susceptibility could help doctors detect the disease early, when it is most treatable.

Led by Dr. Xifeng Wu, assistant professor of epidemiology, the study of 97 lung cancer patients found that 44% had changes in chromosome 9 in the peripheral blood lymphocytes, as compared with 23% of the comparison group. Patients who exhibited this change were over two times more likely to report having a first-degree relative with cancer and eight times more likely to have a first-degree relative with lung cancer, according to Dr. Wu.

Implications for Early Detection and Treatment

"We are encouraged by the results and their im-plications for early detection and treatment, said Dr. Margaret Spitz, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology and one of the study investigators. "If these chromosome aberrations are markers of lung cancer susceptibility, they can be used to identify populations that should be targeted for early detection and intervention, which improve the chances of successful treatment. While further study is warranted because the number of subjects in this study was small, we are optimistic about the findings."

The researchers are now exploring whether these aberrations occur concordantly in the lung tissue.

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