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Gene That Helps Control Aging Is Linked to Multiple Myeloma

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Key Points

  • A telomerase RNA component gene called TERC, which is responsible for regulating the length of caps on the ends of DNA molecules and believed to be involved in the aging process, has been linked to the development of multiple myeloma.
  • The study findings bring the number of genetic regions linked to myeloma to 7, providing further evidence that susceptibility to myeloma can be inherited.
  • If the link between TERC and multiple myeloma is confirmed, it may lead to the development of new treatments for the cancer.

A telomerase RNA component gene called TERC, which is responsible for regulating the length of caps on the ends of DNA molecules and believed to be involved in the aging process, has been linked to the development of multiple myeloma, according to a study published in Nature Genetics.

Researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research in London and the University of Heidelberg in Germany compared the genetic makeup of 4,692 patients with multiple myeloma and 10,990 controls. In all, the scientists identified four risk loci for myeloma: 3q26.2 (linked to TERC), 6p21.33, 17p11.2, and 22q13.1. The new findings bring the number of genetic regions linked to myeloma to seven.

While some of the loci identified are within regions that have previously been linked to Hodgkin lymphoma or are located in areas associated with a regulator of B-cell and T-cell function, carrier status for the rs10936599 at 3q26.2 G risk allele is associated with long telomeres, making this loci “an attractive candidate for multiple myeloma susceptibility,” the study authors noted.

“The identification of these risk gene variants offers more compelling evidence that susceptibility to myeloma can be inherited,” Chris Bunce, PhD, Research Director at Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, said in a statement.

Assessing Risk and Identifying New Treatments

“We know cancer often seems to ignore the usual controls over aging and cell death, and it will be fascinating to explore whether in blood cancers that is a result of a direct genetic link,” Richard Houlston, MD, PhD, Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics at The Institute of Cancer Research and a study coleader, said in a statement.  “Eventually, understanding the complex genetics of blood cancers should allow us to assess a person’s risk or identify new avenues for treatment.”

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013, more than 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma and nearly 11,000 will die from the disease.

This study was funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, Myeloma UK, and Cancer Research UK.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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