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It's Not Just the Sun: deCODE Discovers Sequence Variants Affecting Susceptibility to Skin Cancer

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, July 6 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Scientists at deCODE genetics (Nasdaq: DCGN) and academic colleagues from Europe and the United States today present in the journal Nature Genetics the discovery of common genetic risk factors for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) that affect people with fair and dark complexions alike. deCODE had previously discovered five common single-letter variants in the sequence of the human genome (SNPs) linked to risk of BCC, the most common cancer in people of European descent. However, most of these earlier findings were also correlated with fair skin, well known to accompany vulnerability to the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.

By contrast, three of the SNPs presented today do not correlate with light pigmentation, and may thus provide new insight into the underlying biological perturbations that lead to BCC independent of environmental exposure. One of these, in the keratin 5 (KRT5) gene on chromosome 12, leads to a subtle but potentially damaging alteration to the KRT5 protein, which supports the structural integrity of the skin. Those with one copy of the variant are at more than 30% greater likelihood of developing BCC than those who do not carry the variant, while those who carry two copies are at more than 50% greater risk. Another of the SNPs is located on chromosome 9p21, the same region of the genome that deCODE has linked to increased risk of heart attack and others have linked to type 2 diabetes. deCODE used its population genetics resources in Iceland to demonstrate that a third risk variant, on chromosome 7q32, confers greater risk if inherited from the father than from the mother.

"It is important to find genetic causes of BCC that do not appear to be modulated directly by sensitivity to the sun. This may bring us closer to understanding the underlying biology of a very common form of cancer, and KRT5 in particular may point us to new pathways for developing new drugs or skin care products. We are also pleased to be able to fold these discoveries directly into our deCODEme(TM) scans. For sun exposure is still the most important risk factor for BCC, and while people with fair skin are already aware of the need to protect themselves when they go outdoors, others with darker complexions may also be at higher risk of BCC than they think. This is also one of the first reports of a sequence variant conferring risk of a disease that is dependent on the parent of origin. With all of our findings over the past year, we believe we have found variants that play a role in most cases of BCC," said Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE.

The study also provided conclusive evidence that a previously identified SNP in the TERT-CLPTM1L region of chromosome 5 confers susceptibility to BCC but protects agains cutaneous melanoma. A previously known SNP in the SLC45A2 gene on chromosome 5 was confirmed to confer risk of squamous cell carcinoma as well as BCC. The study involved three stages. First, the SNPs with the best results from previous genome-wide scans of more than 300,000 SNPs were tested in large numbers of individuals with and without BCC. The first two phases included participants from Iceland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The SNPs on chromosomes 12, 9p21 and 7q32, as well as those on chromosome 5, were then tested and confirmed in participants from the United States and Spain.

In all, the study included genotypic data from some 45,000 people. deCODE and its collaborators would like to thank those who took part for making the work possible. Financial support for various portions of the work was provided by the US National Institutes of Health (grants T32E007155, R01CA082354, and R01CA57494), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, the Netherlands, the National Bank of Austria, the Radiumhemmet Research Funds and the Swedish Cancer Society.

About deCODE

deCODE is a bio-pharmaceutical company developing drugs and DNA-based tests to improve the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of common diseases. Its lead therapeutic programs, which leverage the company's expertise in chemistry and structural biology, include DG041, an antiplatelet compound being developed for the prevention of arterial thrombosis; DG051 and DG031, compounds targeting the leukotriene pathway for the prevention of heart attack; and DG071 and a platform for other PDE4 modulators with therapeutic applications in Alzheimer's disease and other conditions. deCODE is a global leader in human genetics, and has identified key variations in the genome (SNPs) conferring increased risk of major public health challenges from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Based upon these discoveries deCODE has brought to market a growing range of DNA-based tests for gauging risk and empowering prevention of common diseases. Through its CLIA-registered laboratory, deCODE offers deCODE T2(TM) for type 2 diabetes; deCODE AF(TM) for atrial fibrillation and stroke; deCODE MI(TM) for heart attack; deCODE ProstateCancer(TM) for prostate cancer; deCODE Glaucoma(TM) for a major type of glaucoma; and deCODE BreastCancer, for the common forms of breast cancer. deCODE is delivering on the promise of the new genetics.(SM) Visit us on the web at; on our diagnostics site at; for our pioneering personal genome analysis service and new focused disease scans, integrating the genetic variants included in these tests and those linked to another twenty common diseases, as well as for our new deCODEme Cardio(TM) and deCODEme Cancer(TM) scans, at; and on our blog at

Any statements contained in this presentation that relate to future plans, events or performance are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, and the timing of events, to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among others, those relating to our ability to obtain sufficient financing to continue as a going concern, our ability to develop and market diagnostic products, the level of third party reimbursement for our products, risks related to preclinical and clinical development of pharmaceutical products, including the identification of compounds and the completion of clinical trials, our ability to form collaborative relationships, the effect of government regulation and the regulatory approval processes, market acceptance, our ability to obtain and protect intellectual property rights for our products, dependence on collaborative relationships, the effect of competitive products, industry trends and other risks identified in deCODE's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including, without limitation, the risk factors identified in our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any updates to those risk factors filed from time to time in our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q or Current Reports on Form 8-K. deCODE undertakes no obligation to update or alter these forward-looking statements as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

SOURCE deCODE genetics
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