Native American Ancestry Tied to Increased Mutations in EGFR Gene Among Latin American Lung Cancer Patients 

Study suggests that germline genetics may influence lung cancer risk in this patient population.

Native American ancestry was associated with increased mutations in the EGFR gene in lung cancer patients from Latin American countries, according to a study published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). 

“Many lung cancers are now treatable with targeted therapy or immunotherapy,” said Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Cancer Genomics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. “It is very important for patients with lung cancer to undergo somatic genetic testing to determine which treatments are most likely to be effective for their particular cancer.” 

EGFR-mutant lung cancer is known to be more common among populations from East Asia compared with populations from North America or Europe.  

“But it is not clear whether the ethnic difference in EGFR-mutant lung cancer is due to environmental or genetic factors,” Dr. Meyerson said.  

Dr. Meyerson and his colleagues analyzed samples from 1,153 patients with lung cancer from Latin America – 601 from Mexico and 552 from Colombia. Some 499 of the patients self-reported as non-smokers. Through genomic analysis of tumor samples, the researchers identified mutations in EGFR, KRAS, and other target genes.  

After adjusting for a variety of factors, including self-reported smoking status and sample-specific tumor mutational burden, the researchers found that global Native American ancestry was positively correlated with mutations in the EGFR gene. Further, the researchers found that Native American ancestry was predominantly associated with mutations in the EGFR gene that can cause cancer, but not with other mutations. 

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality, both in the United States and globally, and understanding inherited risk factors for this disease may help us to identify populations that would benefit from increased screening efforts,” he said