PHILADELPHIA -- Lung tumors in those who smoke and those who never smoked have different DNA alterations in the tumor genomes, according to results of a pilot study presented at the Ninth Annual AACR Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, held Nov. 7-10, 2010, in Philadelphia.
Based on the results of this study, Kelsie Thu, a Ph.D. candidate at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre in Vancouver, Canada, suggested that "lung cancer in never-smokers should be studied as a separate group," and that lung cancers in smokers and never-smokers may represent two different diseases.
Thu and colleagues investigated the biology of lung cancer to determine how it is different in 30 patients who never smoked vs. 53 patients who were current or former smokers. The goal: to improve the current understanding of lung cancer development.
"A better understanding of the biology underlying lung cancer development will lead to improved detection and therapeutic strategies, and ultimately, will result in improved patient prognosis," she said.
Using genomic technologies, the researchers found regions of DNA that were altered in both the smoker and never-smoker groups, as well as regions of DNA altered preferentially in one group.
Besides having more epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, which is typical, never-smoker tumor genomes had more DNA alterations than smokers altogether. This suggests there may be more genomic instability in never-smoker lung tumors and that they could develop through different molecular mechanisms, according to Thu.
"Hopefully, our findings will stimulate the research community to further investigate the differences between lung cancer in these two cohorts, which could ultimately lead to the discovery of novel molecular targets for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in never-smokers," Thu said.
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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 32,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 18,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. Including Cancer Discovery, the AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. AACR journals represented 20 percent of the market share of total citations in 2009. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists.