Chromosomal Changes Linked to Family History of Lung Cancer

June 1, 1997

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.

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

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

Lung cancer is one of the most difficult cancer to diagnose in its earlystages. Although 90% of lung cancers occur in smokers, this cancer alsostrikes nonsmokers and former smokers. Scientists are attempting to identifycofactors that might predispose people to lung cancer. Finding such predictorsof susceptibility could help doctors detect the disease early, when itis most treatable.

Led by Dr. Xifeng Wu, assistant professor of epidemiology, the studyof 97 lung cancer patients found that 44% had changes in chromosome 9 inthe peripheral blood lymphocytes, as compared with 23% of the comparisongroup. Patients who exhibited this change were over two times more likelyto report having a first-degree relative with cancer and eight times morelikely 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 earlydetection and treatment, said Dr. Margaret Spitz, professor and chair ofthe department of epidemiology and one of the study investigators. "Ifthese chromosome aberrations are markers of lung cancer susceptibility,they can be used to identify populations that should be targeted for earlydetection and intervention, which improve the chances of successful treatment.While further study is warranted because the number of subjects in thisstudy was small, we are optimistic about the findings."

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