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Large study identifies nine new genomic regions linked to testicular cancer



Monday 13 May 2013


A study from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, involving over 2,000 men with testicular cancer, has identified nine new regions of the genome associated with the disease. 

The research published in Nature Genetics was led by Dr Clare Turnbull from the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology at the ICR and was supported by Movember, ICR and Cancer Research UK.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men and has one of the highest hereditary risks of the common cancers.  A brother of a man with testicular cancer is at 10-fold risk of developing the disease compared to a man in the general population. Prior to this study, only seven genomic regions associated with testicular cancer had been identified.

Dr Clare Turnbull said “We have long known that hereditary factors are important in testicular cancer. These new findings are an important step forward in explaining which genetic factors are involved.” 

The current study involved 1,064 cases of testicular cancer and 10,082 control subjects. The researchers used the iCOGs array to analyse 694 of the most promising genetic variants identified through their previous studies. The iCOGs array was designed by an international consortium and has also been successfully used to find genomic regions involved in breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.  

The testicular cancer iCOGs analysis has identified nine new regions associated with the disease. It is published back-to-back in Nature Genetics with another study performed by an international consortium of investigators which also includes Dr Turnbull and has identified an additional three genomic regions associated with testicular cancer.  Following these two studies, there are now 18 genomic regions known to predispose to testicular cancer.

“Discovering genetic factors involved in testicular cancer offers the potential to identify men who are at high risk of the disease before they develop cancer.  Such men may benefit from screening, or even, in due course, preventative measures to stop them developing the disease at all,” said Turnbull.

Further research is required to understand how these genomic regions are linked to testicular cancer. And it will be of particular interest going forward that some of the regions identified in this study include genes involved in testicular germ cell development and function.

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