Home Health Information Alcohol-related liver cancer: new genes identified

Alcohol-related liver cancer: new genes identified

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Denpa News A team of researchers has conducted the first genome-wide association study for alcohol-related liver cancer. This study compared the genomes of thousands of chronic heavy drinkers who had or had not developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common liver cancer and the third most common cause of cancer death worldwide. 

Although the risk of developing liver cancer increases with the severity of alcohol-induced liver damage, liver cancer will develop in only a minority of chronic heavy drinkers. This finding suggests that genetic factors play a role in the progression of liver damage to HCC.

Understanding why some patients develop HCC and others do not is the question that the team of Professor Jacques Devière of the Erasmus Hospital and the ULB has asked itself. In collaboration with French researchers, Prof. Eric Trépo, a gastroenterologist from the Erasmus Hospital and authorized researcher of the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS of the ULB, conducted the first genome-wide association study for alcohol-related liver cancer, published in The Lancet Oncology on 11 December 2021. More specifically, this study compared the genomes of thousands of chronic heavy drinkers who had or had not developed HCC. The researchers identified two new genes, WNT3A-WNT9A, whose genetic variations are associated with a reduced risk of developing HCC in patients with chronic heavy drinking. These genetic variations could influence the immune system response in a way that is protective against the development of HCC. The researchers also confirmed that genetic variations in other genes (PNPLA3, TM6SF2, HSD17B13) modulate the risk of alcohol-related HCC. These results provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of interaction between alcohol exposure and genetic diversity in individuals leading to the development of liver cancer. 

While genetic variations, which are present in all individuals, may have a modest impact on the risk of alcohol-induced HCC, it should be borne in mind that limiting alcohol consumption has a much greater impact on the prevention of liver cancer risk. . In addition, this study could contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms associated with the development of alcohol-induced HCC and open new avenues for research to identify novel therapeutic targets for the control of liver cancer. 

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