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Telomere maintenance variants and survival after colorectal cancer: Smoking- and sex-specific associations

Telomeres play an important role in colorectal cancer prognosis. Variation in telomere maintenance genes may be associated with survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis, but evidence is limited. In addition, possible interactions between telomere maintenance genes and prognostic factors, such as smoking and sex, also remain to be investigated. We conducted gene-wide analyses of colorectal cancer prognosis in 4,896 invasive colorectal cancer cases from the Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO); 1,871 common variants within 13 telomere maintenance genes were included. Cox models were fit to estimate associations of these variants individually with overall and colorectal cancer-specific survival. Likelihood ratio tests were used to test for interaction by smoking and sex. P values were adjusted using Bonferroni correction. The association between minor allele of rs7200950 (ACD) with colorectal cancer-specific survival varied significantly by smoking pack-years (corrected P = 0.049), but no significant trend was observed. By sex, minor alleles for rs2975843 (TERF1), rs75676021 (POT1), and rs74429678 (POT1) were associated with decreased overall and/or colorectal cancer-specific survival in women but not in men. Our study reported a gene-wide statistically significant interaction with sex (TERF1, POT1). Although significant interaction by smoking pack-years (ACD) was observed, there was no evidence of a dose response. Validation of these findings in other large studies and further functional annotation on these SNPs are warranted. Our study found a gene-smoking and gene-sex interaction on survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis, providing new insights into the role of genetic polymorphisms in telomere maintenance on colorectal cancer prognosis.

Authors: Yin H; Sakoda LC; Newcomb PA; et al.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2020 09;29(9):1817-1824. Epub 2020-06-25.

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