Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found a genetic variant that influences the ageing process among four new variants they linked to myeloma - one of the most common types of blood cancer.
The study more than doubles the number of genetic variants linked to myeloma, bringing the total number to seven, and sheds important new light on the genetic causes of the disease.
One genetic marker found by the researchers is linked to a gene called TERC, which regulates the length of the telomere 'caps' on the ends of DNA.
In healthy cells, these caps erode over time – causing tissues to age – but some cancer cells seem able to ignore the ageing trigger in order to keep on dividing. If further studies confirm the link, TERC could be a target for future myeloma treatments, researchers said.
Researchers found the new markers by comparing the genetic make-up of a total of 4,692 myeloma patients with DNA from 10,990 people without the disease.
"Our study has taken an important step forward in understanding the genetics of myeloma, and suggested an intriguing potential link with a gene that acts as a cell's internal timer," study co-leader Professor Richard Houlston said.
"The identification of these risk gene variants offers more compelling evidence that susceptibility to myeloma can be inherited. Myeloma remains incurable and the effect on patients' quality of life can be devastating," Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said.
"By showing how these specific genes influence the cancer's development, this research could potentially lead to the development of targeted myeloma drugs in the future," said Bunce.


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