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Researchers Find Gene Anomalies in Smokers' Lungs

Spectral karyotyping used to detect abnormalities in subjects' cultured bronchial cells

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A new technique -- spectral karyotyping -- revealed that chromosomal abnormalities are common in benign bronchial cells of smokers at high risk of lung cancer, even before they develop carcinoma, according to a report in the Sept. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Marileila Varella-Garcia, M.D., of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, and colleagues sampled and cultured benign bronchial cells from 43 high-risk smokers without carcinoma, 14 patients with lung carcinoma, and 14 healthy controls who never smoked. They used spectral karyotyping (SKY) to evaluate the chromosomes in the cells.

The researchers found that the chromosomal abnormality index -- a measure of the percentage of cells with numerical or structural chromosomal anomalies -- was 15.8 percent in patients with cancer, 10.1 percent in high-risk smokers, and 0.7 percent in never-smokers. They also found clonal abnormalities in 50 percent of cancer patients, in 40 percent of smokers without carcinoma, and none in the never-smokers.

"Whereas SKY is not a practical tool to directly apply to sputum, it does identify candidate chromosomal sequences that could improve the sensitivity of a fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probe set for sputum screening and risk assessment," the authors write. "SKY FISH is a feasible method for comprehensive evaluation of the chromosomal changes in non-malignant bronchial epithelial cells of high-risk individuals."

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