Asthma may be linked to a decreased risk of brain cancer

According to new research there is a suggestion that gene variants known to raise the risk of asthma, might also decrease the risk of a common type of brain cancer that progresses rapidly and is fatal.

The variants are minor changes in a gene that can influence how often the associated protein is produced in a cell and how well it functions.

Apparently several reports have already linked asthma with a reduced risk of brain tumors, but the studies may have suffered from various design issues, and according to lead author Dr. Judith Schwartzbaum, from Ohio State University in Columbus the evidence was not credible.

Schwartzbaum's team in their study, looked for an association between asthma-related gene variants and glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, in 111 patients with this tumor and 422 in a comparable group.

The team conducted an extensive search of literature in order to identify variants that have been consistently linked to an increased or decreased risk of asthma.

Their findings were in agreement with previous research, and self-reported asthma was seen to be associated with a decreased risk of GBM.

The team found that two variants were linked to a heightened risk of GBM, whereas another was associated with a reduced risk.

It appears that the two former variants are known to decrease the risk of asthma, whereas the latter raises the risk.

Schwartzbaum says she is now interested in determining if these variants coincidentally have independent roles in the two diseases or whether having asthma or allergy symptoms reduces the risk of GBM.

She is also looking for a variant that increases the risk of both diseases, rather than raising the risk of one and lowering the risk of the other.

Such a variant she explains could serve as a target for new drugs.

The research is published in the journal Cancer Research, July 15, 2005.

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