Study Shows Huntington’s Reduces Cancer Risk

According to a study in Sweden, people who have developed Huntington’s disease, a debilitating brain condition, appear have a “protection” from cancer.

The findings, which were published in The Lancet Oncology, analysed almost 40 years of medical records, showing that patients with Huntington’s have half the normal expected risk of developing tumours.  However researchers commented that the reasons are unclear.

Cancer Research UK said the results presented another avenue to explore when tackling cancer.

Academics at Lund University studied Swedish hospital data from 1969 to 2008, and found 1,510 patients with Huntington’s disease.  During the study period, 91 of those patients subsequently developed cancer.  The authors said that this was 53% lower than the levels which are expected for the general population.

Huntington’s disease is one of a group of illnesses called “polyglutamine diseases”.  Data from other polyglutamine diseases has also showed lower levels of cancer.  Polyglutamine diseases are characterised by the expansion of CAG triplet repeats in specific genes.  The accumulated encoded proteins affect the transcription of numerous transcription factors.

The authors observed that “the incidence of cancer was significantly lower among patients with polyglutamine diseases than in the general population.”

“The mechanisms behind the protective effects against cancer are unclear and further research is warranted,” they noted.

Dr Jianguang Ji, from the Centre for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University, commented that “clarification of the mechanism underlying the link between polyglutamine diseases and cancer in the future could lead to the development of new treatment options for cancer.”


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