August 1, 2022

H. pylori and lung cancer

Specific biomarkers for H. pylori — a bacterium that infects the stomach — were associated with increased risk of lung cancer, Vanderbilt researchers have discovered.

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori infects the stomach and is a strong risk factor for gastric cancer. About 33% of U.S. adults have been infected with H. pylori, which has also been implicated in the development of colorectal and pancreatic cancers and may increase the risk of lung cancer. 

To explore H. pylori infection and lung cancer risk, Qiuyin Cai, MD, PhD, and colleagues conducted a nested case-control study within the Southern Community Cohort Study. They tested for antibodies to 15 H. pylori proteins in blood samples from participants (295 lung cancer cases diagnosed after enrollment and 295 matched controls). 

They found that specific H. pylori biomarkers (VacA, CagA, HP1564, Catalase) were associated with increased risk of lung cancer and that the associations were modified by lifetime smoking exposure. The associations were also more evident among African Americans. 

The findings, reported in the journal Carcinogenesis, support an association of H. pylori infection with lung cancer risk and suggest that larger studies are warranted.

Other authors include Hyung-Suk Yoon, PhD, MPH, Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD, MPH, Hui Cai, MD, PhD, Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH, Jie Wu, MD, MPH, Wanqing Wen, MD, MPH, Regina Courtney, MS, Chris Shidal, PhD, Tim Waterboer, PhD, and William Blot, PhD. 

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants CA160056, CA092447, CA202979). Data collection and sample preparation were performed by the Survey and Biospecimen Shared Resource, which is supported in part by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (NIH grant CA068485).