Lung Cancer: Public Health Tackles Lung Cancer

Spencer Watson

Mohammed Orloff, Ph.D., is hoping to figure why, despite the proven link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, some smokers never develop the disease and some non-smokers do. By extension, the hope is to shed light on why anyone develops the disease.

To further that understanding of the causes of lung cancer, Orloff is studying the genetics of individuals and specific populations, including those in Arkansas. He believes that genetic alterations and environmental factors together contribute to the development of lung cancer.

The genetic variation in the Arkansas population, like any population, may have been influenced by a unique demographic history, environment and other forces.

“I think the bottom line is, what we’re doing is going to benefit the population of Arkansas,” Orloff said.

The bottom line is what we’re doing is going to benefit the population of Arkansas.
While research has already identified certain mutations that can lead to lung cancer, issues still persist in early detection, design of effective treatments and understanding the cause.

Orloff ultimately hopes to identify biomarkers that will improve detection rates and reduce screening costs as well as figure out how environmental factors such as smoking interact with genes to make a disease more aggressive.

So far, his research has uncovered nine candidate genes, two of which are being tested and screened for mutations that may play into the development of the cancer.

“We used to think in terms of a single candidate gene here or there in the human genome,” Orloff said. “Now we have multiple players, genetic and non-genetic. It’s not just one gene and one gene alone.”