June 13, 2024
Cancer Survivors

Inherited Genetic Factors Influence Risk Of New Cancers Among Childhood Cancer Survivors

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have found that common inherited genetic factors, known to predict cancer risk in the general population, may also influence the risk of developing new cancers in childhood cancer survivors. The study, recently published in Nature Medicine, highlights the significance of genetics in the development of subsequent cancers in individuals who have survived childhood cancer and suggests that these inherited variants could potentially aid in screening and long-term follow-up of those at higher risk.

Childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of developing new cancers later in life due to the impact of cancer treatment and rare inherited genetic factors. Through the study, researchers discovered that the combined effect of common genetic variants, along with a history of radiation treatment, resulted in a greater risk of cancer than when each factor was examined individually.

Lead investigator Todd M. Gibson, Ph.D., from NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, emphasized the potential utility of understanding an individual’s genetic makeup in managing their risk of subsequent cancers. By incorporating genetics, treatment history, and other risk factors, healthcare providers may be able to better assess a survivor’s risk of developing future cancers and guide their long-term care.

The research team utilized data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) conducted in large populations to assess how common inherited genetic variants contribute to the risk of subsequent cancer in childhood cancer survivors. These studies have identified numerous common inherited variants associated with various cancers, which, when combined into a polygenic risk score, offer a more comprehensive estimation of an individual’s genetic risk.

By examining the association between polygenic risk scores and the risk of different cancers among childhood cancer survivors, the researchers found that these scores were linked to several cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and colorectal cancer. The combination of a high polygenic risk score and a history of radiation exposure resulted in a significantly greater risk of cancer than anticipated based on individual risk factors for basal cell carcinoma, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer.

While these findings provide valuable insights into the potential role of polygenic risk scores in enhancing long-term follow-up guidelines for childhood cancer survivors exposed to radiation, the study acknowledges the need for further research in diverse populations. Additionally, while polygenic risk scores are not currently integrated into routine clinical practice, they hold promise for informing screening strategies and clinical decisions in the future.

Dr. Gibson cautions that although the study demonstrates the potential of polygenic risk scores in refining guidelines for the care of childhood cancer survivors, they are not yet sufficient to modify existing protocols. Moving forward, continued research and validation in diverse populations will be essential to fully leverage the benefits of genetic factors in assessing and managing cancer risk in survivors of childhood cancer.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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