Scientists have identified genes associated with throat cancer. Genome Institute of Singapore and Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Centre identified the three new susceptibility genes.
The study, led by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), a biomedical research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A STAR), and the Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Centre, identified genetic risk factors of NPC that advance the understanding of the important role played by host genetic variation in influencing the susceptibility to this cancer.
NPC is a type of cancer that forms in the epithelial lining of the nasopharynx, the area of the upper throat that lies behind the nose. It is particularly prevalent in southern China, such as Guangdong, with an occurrence rate of about 25 times higher than that in most regions of the world.
NPC is therefore referred to as the Cantonese Cancer (Cantonese is a Chinese dialect spoken in and around the city of Guangzhou in Southern China).
To search for the genetic risk factors for NPC, the scientists carried out a comprehensive genetic analysis of the human genome in a large clinical sample of southern Chinese descent - approximately 5,000 patients and 5,000 controls.
The researchers found that the genetic variation within the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)  and the three genes known as TNFRSF19, MDSIEVI1 and CDKN2A/2B can significantly influence a person's risk of developing NPC.
This finding provides an important opportunity for biologists to understand the molecular mechanism underlying the development of this cancer, and its unusual pattern of high prevalence in southern China.
Co-lead author Prof Zeng added, "This finding confirmed the strong genetic effect of HLA locus in the risk of NPC. By using the high density of genetic markers, our finding helps to narrow down the chromosome region to search for the causative gene variant(s) associated with HLA loci. The identification of susceptibility genes involved in the risk of NPC will help to develop a model for risk prediction and then screen for high risk populations, which in turn will be helpful for early diagnosis of NPC."
The findings of the study have been published in Nature Genetics.