Genetics leaves some survivors at risk for another cancer

Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 2017

Co-senior authors Jinghui Zhang, Ph.D., and Leslie Robison, Ph.D., discuss results with co-first authors Carmen Wilson, Ph.D., and Zhaoming Wang, Ph.D.

(from left) Co-senior authors Jinghui Zhang, Ph.D., and Leslie Robison, Ph.D., discuss results with co-first authors Carmen Wilson, Ph.D., and Zhaoming Wang, Ph.D.

More than 400,000 childhood cancer survivors live in the U.S. For most, cancer is a one-time diagnosis that ends with a cure. But some survivors develop second or even third cancers.  Sometimes, the initial cancer treatment increased that risk. Until now little was known about the part genetics plays.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists sequenced the genomes of more than 3,000 long-term survivors. The study is apparently the first to analyze the complete genetic code of a large group of cancer survivors. 

Twelve percent carried inborne mutations in 156 genes linked to an increased cancer risk. The genes included 60, like BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes tied to breast cancer, that when mutated predispose people to develop cancer. Six percent of the survivors had mutations in the cancer-predisposition genes.

"These results suggest that many more childhood cancer survivors would likely benefit from genetic screening and counseling," said Leslie Robison, PhD, St. Jude Epidemiology and Cancer Control chair. Added Jinghui Zhang, PhD, St. Jude Computational Biology chair: "More than 32,000 childhood cancer survivors may be at elevated risk for other cancers."

The research was presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Read the news release.

More Information