East Asians are more likely to develop a rare type of stomach cancer due to a genetic predisposition to lower alcohol tolerance, a new study has revealed.
A group of international researchers collected and analyzed 1,457 gastric cancer genome samples from patients in Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore and the U.S. for the study. With the world’s largest pool of such cell samples at hand, they found an association between alcohol consumption and diffuse gastric cancer.
Diffuse gastric cancer is characterized by a growth of cancer cells in more than one area of the stomach.
The hereditary disease, the highest rates of which are reported in Asia, tends to have a dismal prognosis.
Study co-author Tatsuhiro Shibata, who heads Japan’s National Cancer Center Research Institute, pointed to a genetic mutation among East Asians that compromises alcohol metabolism, according to NBC News. The same mutation happens to be behind the notorious “Asian glow,” or the flushing that occurs relatively quickly in some Asians after alcohol consumption.
Meanwhile, previous studies found that mutations in the protein encoding gene RHOA (Ras Homolog Family Member A) could lead to diffuse gastric cancer.
In one study, mutations were identified in more than one out of four patients.
“In patients with gastric cancer with East Asian ancestry, our data suggested a link between alcohol consumption or metabolism and the development of RHOA mutations. Moreover, mutations with potential roles in immune evasion were identified,” wrote the researchers, who reported a total of 77 significantly mutated genes linked to gastric cancer.
Discovering the driver genes provides opportunities for targeted treatment options.
Additionally, the researchers identified 16 genomic biomarkers for gastric cancer immunotherapy.
The study, titled “Multiancestry genomic and transcriptomic analysis of gastric cancer,” was published in the journal Nature Genetics.