New genetic findings help explain inherited predisposition to myeloma

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Researchers have identified eight new genetic variations in the human genome that could be linked to an increased risk of developing myeloma. Around 5,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with myeloma, a rare and incurable form of cancer affecting the plasma cells in bone marrow.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, compared the genomes of myeloma patients with those of healthy individuals. The team also combined and re-analysed data from similar research undertaken as part of a genome-wide association study (GWAS). In total, the researchers compared DNA from 9,866 myeloma patients with 239,188 healthy adults. The findings provide additional evidence, and build on existing research that suggests myeloma can run in families.

This research, published in Nature Communications, suggests that subtle effects on the activity of key genes could mean that the proper development of plasma cells breaks down, increasing the likelihood of developing myeloma.

Rosetrees supported this exciting new study alongside Bloodwise, Myeloma UK and Cancer Research UK.

Study leader Richard Houlston, Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our study expands our understanding of how inherited risk factors can influence the risk of myeloma. We know that the inherited risk of myeloma does not come from just one or two major risk genes, as can be the case with breast cancer, but from multiple different genetic variants, each with only a small individual effect on risk. Identifying more of these variants gives us new insights into the potential causes of the disease, and open up new strategies for prevention.”

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