Washington: Scientists claim to have identified three new genes which are linked to throat cancer, a key breakthrough which could pave the way for more effective treatment against the disease.
An international team, led by the Genome Institute of Singapore, identified genetic risk factors of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) that advance the understanding of the role
played by host genetic variation in influencing susceptibility to this type of throat cancer.
NPC is a type of cancer that forms in the epithelial lining of the nasopharynx, the area of the upper throat that lies behind the nose.
To search for the genetic risk factors for NPC, the scientists carried out a comprehensive genetic analysis of the human genome in a large clinical sample of southern Chinese
descent -- approximately 5,000 patients and 5,000 controls. The team found that the genetic variation within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) and the three genes known as TNFRSF19, MDSIEVI1 and CDKN2A/2B can significantly influence a person`s risk of developing NPC.
The scientists also noticed that these three susceptibility genes for NPC have been reported to be involved in the development of leukemia, suggesting there might be some
shared biological mechanism between the developments of these two diseases.
This finding provides an important opportunity for biologists to understand the molecular mechanism underlying the development of this cancer, say the scientists.
Team member Dr Liu Jianjun said, "Although many groups have attempted to identify the genetic risk factors of NPC, the findings of previous studies were limited by the
small number of genes and clinical samples used.
"Because of this large-scale study of approximately 10,000 subjects in total, we are able to break through with more robust evidence compared to previous studies."
Added another team member Professor Yi-Xin Zeng, "This finding confirmed the strong genetic effect of HLA locus in the risk of NPC. By using the high density of genetic markers, our finding helps to narrow down the chromosome region to search for causative gene variant(s) associated with HLA loci.
"The identification of susceptibility genes involved in the risk of NPC will help to develop a model for risk prediction and then screen for high risk populations, which in turn will be helpful for early diagnosis of NPC." The findings have been published in the latest edition of the `Nature Genetics` journal.