Studies elucidate genetic links between cancer and schizophrenia

Dec 09, 2007

A series of studies presented today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) annual meeting elucidates evidence that there is a genetic link between schizophrenia and cancer, providing a surprising possible scientific explanation for lower rates of cancer among patients with schizophrenia – despite having poor diets and high rates of smoking – and their parents.

Researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) emphasize that many of the genes associated with schizophrenia are the same as the genes associated with cancer, but that the cells that have these genes use them in opposite ways in the two disorders. While cancer results from changes in the genes that cause cells to go into metabolic overdrive and multiply rapidly, those same genes cause cells in schizophrenia to slow to a crawl.

“We found that many of the same genes are involved in schizophrenia as in cancer, but in a yin and yang way. This will provide critical insight into the molecular structure of schizophrenia,” said lead researcher and ACNP member Dr. Daniel Weinberger of NIMH. Some of the genes showing this yin-yang effect include NRG1, AKT1, PIK3, COMT, PRODH and ErbB4. While these genes can’t be used to predict exactly who will develop these diseases, Dr. Weinberger says they can be used to help determine risk.

Dr. Amanda Law of the University of Oxford, who heads one of the teams working at the NIMH, explored specific genetic pathways that cells use to make basic decisions about their development and their fate.

“This is about basic decision making by cells—whether to multiply, move or change their basic architecture,” says Dr. Law. “Cancer and schizophrenia may be strange bedfellows that have similarities at the molecular level. The differences lie in how cells respond to external stimuli: in cancer the molecular system functions to speed up the cell and in schizophrenia the system is altered in such a way that causes the cell to slow down.” Law adds that selective targeting of these pathways may be a potential target in developing treatments for schizophrenia.

“It’s very curious that a brain disorder associated with very complicated human behavior has at a genetic and cellular level a striking overlap with cancer, a very non-behavior related disorder. Understanding these pathways might provide us with some new strategies for thinking about cancer,” said Dr. Weinberger.

Dr. Weinberger added that future research involves using this information to search for therapeutic insights that can reverse these processes, with implications not only for treatment of schizophrenia, but also maybe for cancer as well.

An estimated two million Americans have schizophrenia, a biological condition that affects a person’s ability to think clearly, distinguish reality from fantasy, to manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. The World Health Organization has identified schizophrenia as one of the ten most debilitating diseases affecting humans.

Source: American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Explore further: Goat to be cloned to treat rare genetic disorder

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A key facilitator of mRNA editing uncovered

Feb 06, 2014

Molecular biologists from Indiana University are part of a team that has identified a protein that regulates the information present in a large number of messenger ribonucleic acid molecules that are important ...

Single-cell genome sequencing gets better (w/ Video)

Jan 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bioengineers at the Jacobs School have created a better way to sequence genomes from individual cells. The breakthrough, which relies on microwells just 12 nanoliters in volume (see image), ...

Gene linked to schizophrenia may reduce cancer risk

Jan 19, 2010

People who inherit a specific form of a gene that puts them on a road to schizophrenia may be protected against some forms of cancer, according to a new study by scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

Recommended for you

Researchers transplant regenerated oesophagus

17 hours ago

Tissue engineering has been used to construct natural oesophagi, which in combination with bone marrow stem cells have been safely and effectively transplanted in rats. The study, published in Nature Communications, shows ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.