HOUSTON - Variations in a common gene pathway may affect esophageal cancer risk, a dangerous and rapidly increasing type of cancer, according to research by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Results of the study, which is the first to look at the association between variations in genes related to microRNAs (miRNAs) and esophageal cancer, are published in the November issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.
"Previous research has shown miRNAs control approximately one-third of human genes and may play a part in cancer risk," said the study's lead author, Xifeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at M. D. Anderson. "But whether genetic variants of miRNA-related genes influence esophageal cancer has largely remained unknown."
To examine the potential roles of these variations in esophageal cancer, researchers looked at the relationships among 41 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 26 miRNA-related genes and risk of esophageal cancer. SNPs are places in the human genome that vary by a single DNA chemical building block or nucleotide.
Seven genotypes were significantly associated with esophageal cancer risk, and four more showed at least a borderline significance. The risk of esophageal cancer became higher in correlation to an increase in the number of the unfavorable genotypes present.
"This research showed not only that a single gene contributes to the risk of esophageal cancer, but more importantly that the joint effect of several genetic elements can increase risk," said the study's first author, Yuanqing Ye, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at M. D. Anderson.
Esophageal cancer ranks sixth in cancer-related deaths worldwide, and it is becoming more common. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,000 people will be diagnosed and more than
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University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center