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More Genetic Insights Into 3 Types of Cancer
Date:3/27/2013

ible for increasing vulnerability to certain forms of cancer. The impact on a person depends on where on the strand of DNA the genetic alteration is located.

The studies from the European-based consortium -- collectively known as the Collaborative Oncological Gene-Environment Study, or COGS -- compared 100,000 patients with breast, ovarian or prostate cancer to 100,000 healthy people.

The massive collaboration involved more than 130 institutions for the breast cancer study, more than 100 institutions for the ovarian cancer study and 70 for the prostate cancer study.

Researchers did genetic analyses of all the participants, studying 200,000 particular sections of the DNA strand. Certain variations were associated with increased risk of disease. For example, researchers found the following:

  • Breast cancer: 49 spelling mistakes (SNPs), more than double what had previously been discovered
  • Prostate cancer: 26 new deviations, which adds up to a total of 78 SNPs now linked to the disease
  • Ovarian cancer: Eight new SNPs associated with this form of cancer

What's more, the scientists identified DNA regions that suggest a shared genetic basis and mechanism among all three cancers. "There were clearly a number of regions where you get SNPs for more than one cancer," Easton said. "There are a number of other regions where we presume there are particular genes important for a range of cancer types."

Implications of the enormous research effort are far ranging, the scientists said. As the precise role of genetics in cancer is better understood, lifestyle factors will continue to be seen as critical, even in cancers that are considered closely tied to genetics, said Dr. Paul Pharoah, a senior clinical research fellow at the University of Cambridge.

"It's quite clear from what [we] understand about the genetics of these cancers that the lifestyle or environment act in concert with the genetics," Pharoah
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