Scientists from Singapore, China and USA have identified three new susceptibility genes in a genome-wide association study of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The study, led by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Centre, identified genetic risk factors of NPC that advance the understanding of the important role played by host genetic variation in influencing the susceptibility to this 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. It is particularly prevalent in southern China, such as Guangdong, with an occurrence rate of about 25 times higher than that in most regions of the world. NPC is therefore referred to as the Cantonese Cancer (Cantonese is a Chinese dialect spoken in and around the city of Guangzhou in Southern China).
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 researchers found that the genetic variation within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) - these are cell surface glycoproteins that play a significant role in the immune system - and the three genes known as TNFRSF19, MDSIEVI1 and CDKN2A/2B can significantly influence a person's risk of developing NPC. The researchers 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.
Co-lead author 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."
Co-lead author Prof Zeng added, "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."
MEDICA.de; Source: Genome Institute of Singapore