testicular cancerHealthy men could soon undergo a genetic test that shows them if they are at a higher risk of testicular cancer, after the discovery of a number of genetic markers.

The significant rise of markers raises the risk of developing testicular cancer. The paper has been published in Nature Genetics, and was led by researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, UK, reports Medical News Today.

First author and study leader, Dr. Clare Turnball, a senior ICR researcher in genetics and epidemiology, said, “Our study has almost doubled the number of DNA variations linked to increased risk of developing testicular cancer and advanced our ability to use genetics to predict disease in healthy men.”

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer that occurs in men aged between 15 and 34 years. It is becoming increasingly apparent that inherited risk in this type of cancer does not arise from one faulty gene, but from several “single-letter” changes in DNA, or “risk loci.”

In the latest study, researchers used data from three separate studies to compare the DNA of 7,319 men with testicular germ cell tumours (TGCT) with the DNA of 23,082 men without the disease. They found 19 new risk loci that raise the risk for TGCT testicular cancer, “roughly doubling the number of known TGCT risk loci to 44,” they explained.

The team went on to suggest that testing healthy men for this increased number of genetic markers could pick those with a 10-fold higher risk of developing the disease, potentially offering them the chance to benefit from medical surveillance or even treatment to prevent the disease.

When they used all 44 genetic markers, the researchers found that men with the highest risk of developing TGCT had a 7% lifetime risk of developing the disease, which is some 14 times higher than that of the general male population.

Alongside this research, the team also found out new clues about how the DNA changes interfere with the inner workings of germ cells to trigger testicular cancer. For example, they found evidence of disruption to processes that keep chromosomes stable, and of interference with signalling pathways that are associated with “well-known cancer gene” called KIT.

Such discoveries could potentially lead to the development of new drugs that target the DNA variants. Paul Villanti, Director of Programmes at the study funder, Movember Foundation, highlighted that the findings open a route to “new treatments that are so desperately needed to save men for whom current treatments are unsuccessful.”

The researchers believe that the 44 DNA variants identified so far account for around third of the inherited risk of developing TGCT.

Dr Turnball concluded, “Further studies are needed to understand how these genetic changes interact over time to influence the biology of the call and lead to development of cancer.”