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Genes Linked to Nicotine Addiction and Lung Cancer

April 18, 2008

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AKINSO: Scientists have identified a genetic variant that not only makes smokers more prone to nicotine addiction but also increases their risk of developing lung cancer and arterial disease.

VOLKOW: The other very interesting finding was in this same cluster of genes they found an association with an increased risk for lung cancer and for arterial disease.

AKINSO: Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

VOLKOW: Now you may say well is that at all surprising since they are finding an association between heavy smoking and the dependence severity and the more you smoke, you know the more the likely you increase your risk for cancer.

AKINSO: Dr. Nora Volkow says the results from this NIDA study suggest for the first time that a single genetic variant not only can predispose to nicotine addiction but may also increase sensitivity to extremely serious smoking related diseases. 

VOLKOW: We have not thought of these nicotine receptors as potential for the treatment of nicotine addiction. We have not because all of the animal studies pointed to a different type of nicotine receptor vis-à-vis the reawarding affects of nicotine which is what drives most people to start smoking. So this opens up for us in terms of medication development a new set of compounds that we could start to test in terms of helping individuals who despite their attempts to stop smoking. At the same time, it also opens up the possibility of new therapeutics for lung cancer.

AKINSO: Dr. Volkow adds that it points to potential targets for new smoking-cessation medications that may be more effective at helping smokers to quit.  This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda Maryland.

This page was last updated April 2008

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