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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Gene linked to testicular cancer
Gene analysis
A key gene has been identified
Scientists have identified the first gene known to be closely linked to testicular cancer.

The research could lead to a screening test for testicular cancer, and to new treatments.

A team from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina has found that men who inherit an overactive form of a gene called hiwi are at increased risk of developing the disease.


This is the first study to establish a high level correlation between a gene and seminoma

Dr Haifan Lin
They are particularly at risk of a form of testicular cancer called seminoma, which originates in the reproductive cells.

Researcher Dr Haifan Lin, who discovered the hiwi gene in 1997, found that seminoma tumours contained reproductive cells in which the gene was up to 16 times more active than normal.

This appeared to be linked to the accelerated cell multiplication associated with cancer.

Significant findings

Dr Lin admits that the study only focused on a small number of patients, but he said the findings were significant.

Twelve out of 19 patients (63%) showed evidence of an overactive hiwi gene.

He said: "This is the first study to establish a high level correlation between a gene and seminoma."

Although hiwi is the first gene known to be highly correlated to seminoma, scientists are close to identifying other genes suspected of playing a role in other testicular cancers.

In February 2000, cancer UK researchers announced they had located, but not yet identified, a gene on a region of chromosome X that is associated with testicular cancer.

The gene, TGCT1, can increase a men's risk of testicular cancer by up to 50 times.

Dr Lin suspects that an under active hiwi gene may be linked to sterility in men.

Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in Caucasian men between the ages of 15 and 45.

The research is published in the journal Oncogene.

See also:

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