A disabled gene that seems to let cells grow uncontrollably, like a car losing its brakes, is responsible for the most common form of kidney cancer, scientists reported Friday.
Identification of the gene may lead to earlier detection of kidney cancer and possibly better treatment and prevention, said Dr. W. Marston Linehan of the National Cancer Institute, senior author of the study.
The gene is one of a growing class of known “tumor suppressor” genes, which normally act to prevent cancer. When they are disabled, that control is lost.
“It’s like a car losing its brakes,” Linehan said Friday.
The gene is linked to a form of kidney cancer that accounts for more than 19,000 cases every year in the United States, Linehan said. This form accounts for about 85% of kidney cancers.
The institute said the gene is responsible for the kidney cancer type. But David Smith of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, who studies the genetics of kidney cancer, said he did not consider that proven.
“I’m sure that it plays a role, how big a role remains to be discerned,” he said.
Linehan said the work may lead to some form of test to identify disabled versions of the gene in cells in the blood or urine, which could greatly improve the prospects for early diagnosis of the kidney cancer.
The work is reported in the May issue of the journal Nature Genetics.