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Is lung cancer genetic?
Cancer biologists at MIT now suspect that a single gene going by the name of Nuclear Factor I/B (abbreviated NFIB) may play a significant role in the development and progression of Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC).
This type of lung cancer affects roughly one in seven of all cases of the disease. It is a very agressive form of cancer that spreads rapidly to other critical organs of the body. It commonly affects the liver, adrenal glands and other areas as well. Unfortunately, SCLC is usually not detected till it has spread to other locations, making treatment difficult.
There are often large numbers of genetic mutations taking place in cancer cells. For this reason, it is a difficult task to identify which of these mutations may be the cause or causes of cancer. The MIT researchers used what is known as whole genome profiling to identify the NFIB gene.
Although the study was done with mice, the authors of the study state that the way the SCLC progressed in mice was very similar to how it does in human beings. There is a good chance that this is actually one of the lung cancer genes.
In an earlier study at the University of Cincinnati, biologists had identified a gene that may increase the susceptibility to lung cancer. This gene is labelled RGS17.
It is known that having a family history of lung cancer increases the risk of developing the disease. The UC study researchers identified families with several members who have lung cancer. They collected biological samples from these families and analyzed them to identify possible genetic factors.
Researchers found that the RGS17 gene was "overexpressed" in about sixty percent of biological samples from those without a history of lung cancer in their families. This is further evidence that this gene may be involved in the diease.
Also, doing research on genetically altered mice, researchers found that supressing the RGS17 gene resulted in shrinkage of lung tumors. Meaning, this specific gene must be present for lung cancer to develop.
In another research study conducted by the Ohio State University pinpointed a gene called TCF21 that may play a role in lung cancer as well as cancers affecting the head and neck.
This gene acts to suppress the growth of tumors. The researchers found that this suppressor gene tends to be silenced - rendered inactive - through a process called DNA methylation. Cells that develop tumors tend to show such gene silencing.
The good news is that this process is potentially reversible through the use of drugs. Restoring the gene may help eliminate the malignancy.
Identification of this gene may lead to more effective solutions for early detection of lung cancer symptoms. It will also help disease treatment where lung cancer has already developed.
So in answer to the question "Is lung cancer genetic?", one could say that it could be so, at least partly. Although environmental factors like tobacco smoke play a major role in triggering the disease, genetic factors may well predispose certain individuals to developing the cancer.
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MIT reporting a new lung cancer gene
University of Cincinnati on genes and cancer suseptibility
Tumor-suppressor gene - Ohio State University
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Stage 4 lung cancer
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The smoking lung cancer nexus
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