London, March 22 (ANI): Scientists have identified a gene that is specifically associated with lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
The research team, co-led by scientists at the Mayo Clinic campus in Minnesota, Harvard University, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that about 30 percent of patients who never smoked and who developed lung cancer had the same uncommon variant, or allele, residing in a gene known as GPC5.
The researchers found in laboratory studies that this allele leads to greatly reduced GPC5 expression, compared to normal lung tissue.
The finding suggests that the gene has an important tumor suppressor-like function and that insufficient function can promote lung cancer development.
"This is the first gene that has been found that is specifically associated with lung cancer in people who have never smoked," says the study's lead investigator, Ping Yang, Mayo Clinic genetic epidemiologist.
"What's more, our findings suggest GPC5 may be a critical gene in lung cancer development and genetic variations of this gene may significantly contribute to increased risk of lung cancer. This is very exciting," Yang added.
The research teams scanned and analyzed the genomes of 2,272 participants who have never smoked, nearly 900 of whom were lung cancer patients. It took researchers 12 years to identify and enroll these study participants.
"It has been very hard to do this research because never smokers have been mingled with smokers in past studies, and what usually pops up are genes related to nicotine dependence," Yang said.
"Findings from this study concern pure lung cancer that is not caused by smoking, and it gives us some wonderful new avenues to explore," Yang added.
The research has been published in the March 22 online issue of Lancet Oncology. (ANI)