Page URL:

First genetic link to bone marrow cancer identified

5 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 636

Two new gene variants, which each increase the risk of bone marrow cancer by 30 percent, have been identified by scientists at the Institute for Cancer Research.

The cancer, known as multiple myeloma, affects the white blood cells of the bone marrow and around 4,000 people in the UK develop it each year. Relatives of patients have four times the chance of developing the disease.

So far it has been hard to pinpoint which genes may be involved, although it is also likely that the increased risk is partially due to environmental factors.

'This study is the first to confirm that some people are genetically predisposed to multiple myeloma', says lead author Professor Richard Houlston.

The team used genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to compare the DNA of 1,675 patients to that of 5,900 people without the cancer. They identified two SNPs – single letter variations in the DNA code – that were more frequent in the multiple myeloma patients' genetic codes.

'Compared to other cancer types, relatively little is known about the biological processes that cause this form of the disease. By identifying these genetic variants, we are closer to understanding how this cancer develops', continues Professor Houlston.

The first variation, increasing risk of myeloma by 32 percent was in a gene called ULK4, located near to a gene on chromosome 3 that produces TRAK1 protein, which is responsible for moving proteins and organelles around the cell. The second variant, found in DNAH11 on chromosome 7, increased the risk by 38 percent and was located close to a gene involved in cell division, CDCA7L.

However, these changes were not found to affect the proteins these genes produce, and so the exact contribution of these variants to the disease remains unclear. As these genetic changes account for around four percent of the total risk other variants are also likely to be involved.

Professor Gareth Morgan, another senior author, says: 'By learning more about the biology of multiple myeloma development, we hope to identify new drug targets – or even existing drugs – that could improve patient outcomes. Multiple myeloma is becoming more common as the population ages, and so it is even more important that we find new treatments'.

Bone marrow cancer gene clues found
NHS Choices - Behind the Headlines |  29 November 2011
Cancer study reveals 'faulty genes'
Press Association |  28 November 2011
Common variation at 3p22.1 and 7p15.3 influences multiple myeloma risk
Nature Genetics |  27 November 2011
marrow cancer hope as scientists identify gene that increases risk by 30 per cent
Mail Online |  28 November 2011
Scientists identify first genetic link to myeloma
Cancer Research UK |  27 November 2011
16 February 2015 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
The order in which mutations occur in a cell can determine the clinical outcome of certain cancers, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine...
14 November 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
A new genetic test that will help to tailor drugs to cancer patients' individual tumours has been successfully trialled in the US...
3 October 2011 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A study analysing three different, but closely related, African populations has identified that a cancer gene is present at a surprisingly high frequency; akin to those usually associated with evolutionary advantages...
22 August 2011 - by Heidi Colleran 
Two US studies published this week have shed light on how a gene mutation can change the number of chromosomes present in the cells of more than 90 percent of cancers...
6 June 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Scientists have identified a set of 15 genes that are associated with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive form of the disease that does not respond to the drugs commonly used to treat other types of breast cancer...
4 April 2011 - by Maren Urner 
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have identified three different genetic mutations linked to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a cancer that is characterised by a rapid increase in abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.