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Flawed gene linked to lung cancer

04 June 2014 08:43

Scientists say one in four smokers with the defective gene BRCA2 will develop lung cancer

Scientists say one in four smokers with the defective gene BRCA2 will develop lung cancer

New research has discovered that a quarter of smokers with the defective gene BRCA2 will suffer from lung cancer during their lives.

The mutated gene, which is found in 2% of humans, has been associated with ovarian cancer and breast cancer for some time but now scientists say those who have it are nearly twice as likely as other people to have cancer of the lungs.

Around 13% of the 10 million Brits who smoke develop the disease during their lives but the risk is 25% among those with the gene flaw, as many as 200,000 people.

The leader of the research, Professor Richard Houlston, said that for smokers with the defective gene the risks of lung cancer are huge. The academic from the Institute of Cancer Research in London said the disease kills more people in Britain than any other cancer and as many as a million people around the world every year. The best way to prevent it is not smoking but it is even more crucial for people with the BRCA2 flaw, he said.

The study of 17,000 people across Europe, some with lung cancer and some without, looked for key differences and discovered a clear link between the disease and those participants with the c.9976T alteration to the BRCA2 gene. The connection was even more evident in those suffering from the most common type of the disease, known as squamous cell lung cancer. The scientists also found a connection between squamous cell lung cancer and another gene called CHEK2. Those suffering from the disease can arrange cancer travel insurance to protect them while on holiday.

Professor Houlston and his team think the findings from the study, which have been revealed in the Nature Genetics journal, could change the way people with the BRCA2 gene and lung cancer are treated in the future.

Doctors treating cancer patients with the BRCA2 gene who have developed breast or ovarian cancer have had some success by giving them drugs known as PARP inhibitors, but it is not yet known how they affect lung cancer, which is usually a fatal condition.