Researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas reported that alterations in the genes of a section of chromosome 3p may reveal the earliest stages of lung cancer.
"Based on these findings, we may eventually be able to develop a test that would predict who will develop lung cancer," said Dr. Adi Gazdar, Professor of Pathology at UT Western. The study was published in a recent issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Gazdar and his colleagues examined 24 human lung cancer specimens in the study. In the earliest stages of lung cancer, the UT Southwestern researchers determined that genetic alterations or deletions had developed in a region of chromosome 3p.
Another conclusion was reinforcement of the link between smoking and the development of such cancer. The study located gene alterations throughout the lung. "Our findings provide considerable support for the 'field cancerization' theory," Gazdar said. "That theory suggests the entire upper respiratory tract is compromised when exposed to carcinogens like those found in cigarette smoke. This raises the possibility that cancer may develop in multiple sections of the lung."
Finding defective genes may facilitate detection of early lung cancer, when treatment is most effective. In addition, if defective genes are found, but no malignant lesions can be identified, it may allow physicians to better counsel the patient about his or her risk of developing lung cancer.
Gazdar's collaborators in the study included Dr. John Minna, director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern, and other investigators at UT Southwestern.