Sensitive to Smoke, Lung Cancer Gene

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

July 27, 2004 -- A gene that determines the susceptibility to lung cancer has been localized to chromosome 6. This is the first major success in mapping the genetic vulnerability to lung cancer.

Lung cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States and many other countries. The risk is greatly increased by cigarette smoking and certain environmental exposures but genetic factors also clearly play a major role.

The Discovery

A report just posted online in the American Journal of Human Genetics outlines the discovery. A study was done of families with 3 or more first-degree relatives who had lung, throat, or laryngeal cancer with a special focus on those families that had affected relatives in at least 2 generations.

A battery of almost 400 genetic markers were examined in all available family members. The markers were DNA sequences known to be polymorphic, often variable.

The lung cancer susceptibility gene was found linked to a genetic marker on chromosome 6 with a high degree of certainty. The genetic marker is on the long (q) arm of chromosome 6.