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Researchers discover new genetic link to common colon cancer

CLEVELAND, October 13, 2003: A team of researchers from University Hospitals of Cleveland (UHC) and Case Western Reserve University have identified a specific location on a human chromosome that can be linked to familial cases of colon cancer--the type of colon cancer that tends to run in families.

Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS article #2286) identifies a specific stretch of DNA on chromosome 9 that houses a "susceptibility" gene. "Previous studies have shown that colon cancer risk can be inherited," says Sanford Markowitz, MD, principal investigator for the study. "By analyzing blood samples from 53 families, in which at least one member of the family had a colon cancer or pre-cancerous colon polyp, we were able to find a common link. This moves us much closer to developing a blood test that will identify people who are susceptible to colon cancer well before the cancer ever develops." Dr. Markowitz is a professor of cancer genetics at Case, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and treats patients at University Hospitals Ireland Cancer Center.

Georgia Wiesner, MD, Director of the Center for Human Genetics at UHC and Case, and lead author of the study, notes that at least 200 genes exist on this particular location on chromosome 9. "Future research will focus on finding the one responsible gene," says Dr. Wiesner. "The research team is looking for more sibling pairs and family members for the crucial next phase of the study, the actual identification of the disease-causing gene."

In addition to Drs. Markowitz and Wiesner, the research team included Robert Elston, PhD, of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case, and Joseph Willis, MD, of the Department of Pathology at Case and UHC.

More than six years ago, Cleveland researchers began to recruit study participants who had at least one sibling affected with colorectal cancer or large colon polyps (aden
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Contact: Eileen Korey
eileen.korey@uhhs.com
216-844-3825
University Hospitals of Cleveland
13-Oct-2003


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