Study Provides First Evidence That Cancer Metastasis Is Influenced by Inherited Genes

Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, May 2020

Animal and human studies by scientists at Rockefeller University have for the first time generated data to suggest that an individual’s pre-existing genetic make-up may impact the likelihood of cancer progressing and metastasizing. The researchers discovered that melanoma-bearing mice carrying the APOE4 variant of the APOE gene were less likely to develop metastases than animals carrying the APOE2 variant. APOE4 variant melanoma-bearing mice also survived for longer, and responded better to immune checkpoint therapy than APOE2 mice.

An analysis of data from human cohorts similarly showed that melanoma patients who carried the APOE4 variant had improved survival compared with those carrying APOE2. The scientists say they suspect that these inherited variations can have the same effect on other types of cancer.

“Patients often ask ‘Why am I so unlucky? Why did my cancer spread?’” noted lead investigator Sohail Tavazoie, MD, Leon Hess professor and senior attending physician. “As doctors, we never had an answer. This research provides an explanation.” Tavazoie suggests that the discovery may change the way that scientists think about cancer metastasis, and lead to a better understanding of patients’ risks, helping to inform on treatment decisions.