Background: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: RET fusions may represent a genetic mechanism of radiation-induced lung adenocarcinoma.