New Smoking Gun Explains Cancer in Never-Smokers

Lung cancer in people who have never smoked may be caused by gene fusion

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) We think of lung cancer being the result of tobacco smoking. And while that's certainly a risk factor, nearly a quarter of lung cancer patients have never taken a puff. A never before known genetic event may solve this mystery.

A newly identified blending of two genes may explain what causes lung cancer in people who have never smoked. This finding, in turn, could lead to new drugs that could target this fusion, making it powerless to do its evil work.

"To avoid lung cancer, your best bet is to quit smoking."

A team of medical scientists in South Korea, led by Dr. Jeong-Sun Seo, director of the Genomic Medicine Institute-Seoul National University and chairman of Macrogen Inc., used two ways to explore an individual's genetic make up.

They used genome and RNA sequencing to try to learn what caused the lung adenocarcinoma that showed up in a 33-year-old man from Korea.

Researchers looked at the genes in the man's cancer and normal tissue. They didn't find the most common genetic rearrangements. What they did find is a fusion in the tenth chromosone that bound together the RET gene and the KIF5B gene.

They learned that this fusion has occurred in other people with lung cancer, and that's its not a rare occurrence.

So what does all this mean? While additional research is needed to learn more about this genetic hook-up, researchers believe that this fusion could very likely be something drugs could be developed to block.

This study was published online December 22, 2011 in Genome Research.

Scientists from the Genomic Medicine Institute-Seoul National University, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital, Macrogen Inc. and Psoma Therapeutics Inc. contributed to this study.

The research was supported by Macrogen Inc.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 23, 2011
Last Updated:
December 27, 2011