Hodgkin's May Share Common Genetic Mechanism with Multiple Sclerosis

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A new study reveals that the same genetic variant raises the risk of developing both Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London identified a pair of genetic markers that boost the risk of Hodgkin's lymphoma. These markers affect the development of the immune system.

This brings the known number of genetic risk factors for Hodgkin's up to five.

Finding a 'common mechanism'

Said Professor Alan Ashworth, Chief Executive of the ICR:

Our immune systems must strike a fine balance between on the one hand remaining vigilant to infections or abnormalities such as cancer, and on the other not becoming over-active, and attacking the body's own tissues.

The researchers analyzed the genetic make-up of more than 3,400 patients with Hodgkin's and compared them to more than 8,200 people not diagnosed with the disease.

Among the almost three dozen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or single letter changes, in DNA that they found may raise one's risk of Hodgkin's, one of them is a known risk factor for MS. This is important because it may show a common mechanism operating behind both diseases.

Added Professor Ashworth:

Cancer appears to be, in part, a disease of an under-active immune system, while autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis are caused by the body's immune system working in overdrive and attacking itself.

The study appears in the journal Nature Communications and was funded in part by Cancer Research UK, the largest cancer charity in the United Kingdom.

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