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HHS HealthBeat (September 26, 2012)

Mutated smokers

A human respiratory system and lungs.
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What is lung cancer?

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Lung cancer mostly happens to smokers, but it can happen to nonsmokers as well. However, a study finds that smokers’ lung cancer cells are worse off. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at mutations in lung cancer cells from 17 patients.

Cancer cells are mutated – by definition, that’s what cancer is – but researcher Ramaswamy Govindan says the surprise was in the degree of mutation:

“The mutation frequency was ten-fold higher in smokers compared to never-smokers.” 

The researchers say mutations might be matched with treatment drugs – but they emphasize doctors don’t know yet if they can.

The study in the journal Cell was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: September 26, 2012