Non-Smokers Also Get Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can strike nonsmokers and smokers alike; genes hold answer to helping both

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) While you may think of lung cancer as strictly a smoker’s disease, it can affect non-smokers as well. New gene discoveries are helping find better cancer treatments for both groups.

Genes tell cells how to grow and function, but gene mutations can increase a person’s risk of getting cancer.

Researchers have recently uncovered new genes related to lung cancer and identified striking differences in gene mutations between those who have smoked and those who have not.

A new study has found that lung cancer patients with a history of smoking have 10 times more genetic mutations in their tumors than those with the disease who have never smoked.

"Just stop smoking."

Ramaswamy Govindan, MD, an oncologist with Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was lead author of the study of 17 patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Twelve of the patients were smokers, and five were not.

Investigators identified a total of 3,700 gene mutations in both groups. In each nonsmoker, scientists detected at least one gene mutation that could be treated with drugs used for other cancers that are currently on the market or in clinical trials. All in all, Dr. Govindan and his team found 54 mutated genes that are related to existing drugs.

“Whether these drugs will actually work in patients with these DNA alterations still needs to be studied,” said Dr. Govindan. “But papers like this open up the landscape to understand what’s happening. Now we need to drill deeper and do studies to understand how these mutations cause and promote cancer, and how they can be targeted for therapy.”

The study was published in the September issue of Cell.

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Review Date: 
October 14, 2012
Last Updated:
October 15, 2012