RET rearrangement, a hallmark of radiation-induced thyroid cancer, has been reported to occur in 1% of lung adenocarcinoma patients. Patients with this rearrangement tend to be younger and never smokers, raising a possibility of other causes, such as radiation. We hypothesized that RET chromosomal rearrangement may represent a genetic mechanism of radiation-induced lung cancer.
Two hundred forty-five consecutive primary lung adenocarcinomas without history of radiation and 38 lung adenocarcinoma patients with a history of therapeutic radiation for breast carcinoma or mediastinal Hodkgin lymphoma were tested for RET rearrangement by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Human lung adenocarcinoma cells (201T) were subjected to γ radiation and tested for RET gene fusions by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and Southern blot hybridization.
We identified one case with RET rearrangement in the group without history of radiation (1 of 240; 0.4%) and two cases in the group with history of radiation (2 of 37; 5.4%; P=0.0436). Both these patients were women, who were former smokers with a history of breast carcinoma treated with surgery and radiation. Furthermore, we found that RET fusions could be directly induced in 201T human lung cells by exposure to 1 Gy of γ radiation. All fusions identified were between RET and KIF5B genes, and no RET fusions to CCDC6 or NCOA4 genes, characteristic for thyroid cancer, were identified in the irradiated lung cells.
RET fusions may represent a genetic mechanism of radiation-induced lung adenocarcinoma.