Toward the future of cancer prevention

er risk of developing bladder cancer. Folate is crucial to DNA synthesis and repair, and cigarette smoking (the major cause of the disease) puts this system under stress, the researchers say. The same genes that are implicated in cancer risk also may be involved in prediction of patient outcome, Spitz says. Among recent discoveries are that:
  • Patients with esophageal cancer who had the best treatment outcomes were those that had gene variants that were less effective at neutralizing the killing power of cancer treatments. For example, patients treated with radiation treatment, who inherited less-effective variants of a gene (XRCC1) that repairs DNA damage from radiation, exhibited longer survival.
  • People with more efficient DNA repair function who were given chemotherapy, particularly platinum-based drugs like cisplatin, had a lower overall survival rate than those with less efficient DNA repair.

While faulty DNA repair genes may put a person at risk for developing cancer, they also may benefit them when that cancer is being treated, Spitz says. "Such detailed genetic information can help us develop targeted interventions depending upon individual risk, which will promote cancer prevention and earlier detection as well as improve patient treatment and outcome."

Currently, researchers in the Department of Epidemiology are studying more than 3,000 patients diagnosed with lung, head and neck, bladder, kidney or esophageal cancer. Similar approaches are ongoing for other cancers including melanoma, glioma, lymphoma, and breast and prostate cancer. They ask these patients questions relating to their smoking status, diet, occupation, exposure to chemicals and family history, and then collect urine, blood and tissue cells.

From these samples, they are applying novel molecular "assays," or tests that gauge the biological importance of various genes or proteins.

Among the molecules being i

Contact: Nancy Jensen
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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