Genetic variants associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) are reported in Nature Genetics this week. NPC is a cancer that originates in the uppermost region of the throat and the prevalence is greatly influenced by ethnicity and geography, with the highest prevalence found in East Asia and Africa.
Yi-Xin Zeng and colleagues report a genome-wide association study in a population of 5,090 individuals with NPC and 4,957 healthy controls from southern China. They identified three genetic regions associated with susceptibility to NPC and highlight a potential role for the TGF-beta and JNK signaling pathways in disease pathogenesis. The authors also note common genetic factors with development of leukemia, suggesting there may be some shared mechanism in progression to these two diseases. This theory is also supported by the increased rates of hematological malignancies found in individuals with NPC.