Lung Cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Shared and Unique Biological Pathways

In this project, researchers in the Epidemiology and Genetics of Lung Cancer Research Program at Mayo Clinic are clarifying possible associations between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

Both COPD and lung cancer are smoking-related diseases. Therefore, the logical assumption is that the common link between COPD and lung cancer is habitual smoking.

As advanced imaging technology has allowed more accurate phenotyping of COPD, research has shown that emphysema is directly linked to the risk of developing lung cancer, even in the mildest form and in the absence of any airflow obstruction.

Moreover, the association between COPD and lung cancer holds even in the absence of smoking — that is, people with COPD who have never smoked (never smokers) had a twofold increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Research goals

In this collaborative study with University of Minnesota investigators, researchers in the Epidemiology and Genetics of Lung Cancer Research Program aim to:

  • Define precise clinical disease phenotypes of COPD and lung cancer and identify tissue samples from well-characterized individuals with COPD who either do or do not have lung cancer
  • Characterize gene expression pathways at the level of the genome, transcriptome, genome-wide ribosome translational profile, miRNA and proteome in patients with COPD who do and who do not develop lung cancer
  • Identify germ-line single nucleotide polymorphic changes that are significantly associated with the risk of COPD, lung cancer or both
  • Construct mathematical models combining this multilevel genomic data with COPD clinical phenotypes

With this comprehensive and integrative approach, the research team in the Epidemiology and Genetics of Lung Cancer Program is able to identify key genes and gene networks that are integral to the development of COPD and lung cancer.

Related publications

  • Li Y, Swensen SJ, Karabekmez LG, Marks RS, Stoddard SM, Jiang R, Worra JB, Zhang F, Midthun DE, de Andrade M, Song Y, Yang P. Effect of emphysema on lung cancer risk in smokers: a computed tomography-based assessment. Cancer Prevention Research. 2011;4(1):43-50.
  • de Andrade M, Li Y, Marks RS, Deschamps C, Scanlon PD, Olswold CL, Jiang R, Swensen SJ, Sun Z, Cunningham JM, Wampfler JA, Limper AH, Midthun DE, Yang P. Genetic variants associated with the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with and without lung cancer. Cancer Prevention Research. 2012;5(3):365-73.
  • Hohberger LA, Schroeder DR, Bartholmai BJ, Yang P, Wendt CH, Bitterman PB, Larsson O, Limper AH. Correlation of regional emphysema and lung cancer: a lung tissue research consortium-based study. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2014;9(5):639-45.