Tobacco smoking has been identified as a detrimental factor that reduces the effectiveness of cancer treatment by damaging the body’s “tumor suppressors.” These findings stem from a comprehensive study conducted by scientists at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), shedding light on how smoking alters DNA and hinders the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
Published in the Science Advances journal on November 3, the study reveals that smoking-induced changes in DNA affect the genes responsible for producing a critical protein that serves to inhibit the growth of abnormal cells, including those characteristic of cancer. This alteration to DNA, referred to as a ‘stop-gain mutation,’ disrupts the formation of tumor suppressors, as outlined in the research.
Nina Adler, a University of Toronto PhD student who spearheaded the study, emphasized the significant findings, stating, “Our study showed that smoking is associated with changes to DNA that disrupt the formation of tumor suppressors.” She elaborated on the consequences, noting that without these suppressors, abnormal cells can proliferate unhindered by the body’s natural defenses, making cancer development more likely.
The researchers arrived at these conclusions after analyzing DNA from over 12,000 tumor samples representing 18 different types of cancer. The study not only established a clear link between the lasting ‘footprint’ left by smoking on DNA but also the prevalence of stop-gain mutations observed in lung cancer patients, underlining the devastating impact of tobacco use on cancer outcomes.
Dr. Jüri Reimand, an OICR Investigator and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, who was part of the research team, emphasized the broader implications of these findings. He stated, “Tobacco does a lot of damage to our DNA, and that can have a major impact on the function of our cells. Our study highlights how tobacco smoking actually deactivates critical proteins, which are the building blocks of our cells, and the impact that can have on our long-term health.”
These findings reinforce the urgency of tobacco control measures and the importance of smoking cessation in reducing cancer risk and improving the effectiveness of cancer treatments. The study provides valuable insights into the harmful consequences of smoking on DNA and the body’s natural defenses against cancer, paving the way for further research to address this critical health issue.