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1.  Hemochromatosis (HFE) gene mutations and risk of gastric cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study 
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(6):1244-1250.
Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a strong risk factor for hepatocellular cancer, and mutations in the HFE gene associated with HH and iron overload may be related to other tumors, but no studies have been reported for gastric cancer (GC). A nested case–control study was conducted within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), including 365 incident gastric adenocarcinoma and 1284 controls matched by center, sex, age and date of blood collection. Genotype analysis was performed for two functional polymorphisms (C282Y/rs1800562 and H63D/rs1799945) and seven tagSNPs of the HFE genomic region. Association with all gastric adenocarcinoma, and according to anatomical localization and histological subtype, was assessed by means of the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) estimated by unconditional logistic regression adjusted for the matching variables. We observed a significant association for H63D with OR (per rare allele) of 1.32 (CI = 1.03–1.69). In subgroup analyses, the association was stronger for non-cardia anatomical subsite (OR = 1.60, CI = 1.16–2.21) and intestinal histological subtype (OR = 1.82, CI = 1.27–2.62). Among intestinal cases, two tagSNPs (rs1572982 and rs6918586) also showed a significant association that disappeared after adjustment for H63D. No association with tumors located in the cardia or with diffuse subtype was found for any of the nine SNPs analyzed. Our results suggest that H63D variant in HFE gene seems to be associated with GC risk of the non-cardia region and intestinal type, possibly due to its association with iron overload although a role for other mechanisms cannot be entirely ruled out.
PMCID: PMC3670256  PMID: 23389292
2.  Gene-Lifestyle Interaction and Type 2 Diabetes: The EPIC InterAct Case-Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001647.
In this study, Wareham and colleagues quantified the combined effects of genetic and lifestyle factors on risk of T2D in order to inform strategies for prevention. The authors found that the relative effect of a type 2 diabetes genetic risk score is greater in younger and leaner participants, and the high absolute risk associated with obesity at any level of genetic risk highlights the importance of universal rather than targeted approaches to lifestyle intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Understanding of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has progressed rapidly, but the interactions between common genetic variants and lifestyle risk factors have not been systematically investigated in studies with adequate statistical power. Therefore, we aimed to quantify the combined effects of genetic and lifestyle factors on risk of T2D in order to inform strategies for prevention.
Methods and Findings
The InterAct study includes 12,403 incident T2D cases and a representative sub-cohort of 16,154 individuals from a cohort of 340,234 European participants with 3.99 million person-years of follow-up. We studied the combined effects of an additive genetic T2D risk score and modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors using Prentice-weighted Cox regression and random effects meta-analysis methods. The effect of the genetic score was significantly greater in younger individuals (p for interaction  = 1.20×10−4). Relative genetic risk (per standard deviation [4.4 risk alleles]) was also larger in participants who were leaner, both in terms of body mass index (p for interaction  = 1.50×10−3) and waist circumference (p for interaction  = 7.49×10−9). Examination of absolute risks by strata showed the importance of obesity for T2D risk. The 10-y cumulative incidence of T2D rose from 0.25% to 0.89% across extreme quartiles of the genetic score in normal weight individuals, compared to 4.22% to 7.99% in obese individuals. We detected no significant interactions between the genetic score and sex, diabetes family history, physical activity, or dietary habits assessed by a Mediterranean diet score.
The relative effect of a T2D genetic risk score is greater in younger and leaner participants. However, this sub-group is at low absolute risk and would not be a logical target for preventive interventions. The high absolute risk associated with obesity at any level of genetic risk highlights the importance of universal rather than targeted approaches to lifestyle intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, more than 380 million people currently have diabetes, and the condition is becoming increasingly common. Diabetes is characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar levels are usually controlled by insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas after meals (digestion of food produces glucose). In people with type 2 diabetes (the commonest type of diabetes), blood sugar control fails because the fat and muscle cells that normally respond to insulin by removing excess sugar from the blood become less responsive to insulin. Type 2 diabetes can often initially be controlled with diet and exercise (lifestyle changes) and with antidiabetic drugs such as metformin and sulfonylureas, but patients may eventually need insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels. Long-term complications of diabetes, which include an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, reduce the life expectancy of people with diabetes by about ten years compared to people without diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Type 2 diabetes is thought to originate from the interplay between genetic and lifestyle factors. But although rapid progress is being made in understanding the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes, it is not known whether the consequences of adverse lifestyles (for example, being overweight and/or physically inactive) differ according to an individual's underlying genetic risk of diabetes. It is important to investigate this question to inform strategies for prevention. If, for example, obese individuals with a high level of genetic risk have a higher risk of developing diabetes than obese individuals with a low level of genetic risk, then preventative strategies that target lifestyle interventions to obese individuals with a high genetic risk would be more effective than strategies that target all obese individuals. In this case-cohort study, researchers from the InterAct consortium quantify the combined effects of genetic and lifestyle factors on the risk of type 2 diabetes. A case-cohort study measures exposure to potential risk factors in a group (cohort) of people and compares the occurrence of these risk factors in people who later develop the disease with those who remain disease free.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The InterAct study involves 12,403 middle-aged individuals who developed type 2 diabetes after enrollment (incident cases) into the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) and a sub-cohort of 16,154 EPIC participants. The researchers calculated a genetic type 2 diabetes risk score for most of these individuals by determining which of 49 gene variants associated with type 2 diabetes each person carried, and collected baseline information about exposure to lifestyle risk factors for type 2 diabetes. They then used various statistical approaches to examine the combined effects of the genetic risk score and lifestyle factors on diabetes development. The effect of the genetic score was greater in younger individuals than in older individuals and greater in leaner participants than in participants with larger amounts of body fat. The absolute risk of type 2 diabetes, expressed as the ten-year cumulative incidence of type 2 diabetes (the percentage of participants who developed diabetes over a ten-year period) increased with increasing genetic score in normal weight individuals from 0.25% in people with the lowest genetic risk scores to 0.89% in those with the highest scores; in obese people, the ten-year cumulative incidence rose from 4.22% to 7.99% with increasing genetic risk score.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in this middle-aged cohort, the relative association with type 2 diabetes of a genetic risk score comprised of a large number of gene variants is greatest in individuals who are younger and leaner at baseline. This finding may in part reflect the methods used to originally identify gene variants associated with type 2 diabetes, and future investigations that include other genetic variants, other lifestyle factors, and individuals living in other settings should be undertaken to confirm this finding. Importantly, however, this study shows that young, lean individuals with a high genetic risk score have a low absolute risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Thus, this sub-group of individuals is not a logical target for preventative interventions. Rather, suggest the researchers, the high absolute risk of type 2 diabetes associated with obesity at any level of genetic risk highlights the importance of universal rather than targeted approaches to lifestyle intervention.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes for patients, health-care professionals and the general public, including detailed information on diabetes prevention (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients and carers about type 2 diabetes and about living with diabetes; it also provides people's stories about diabetes
The charity Diabetes UK provides detailed information for patients and carers in several languages, including information on healthy lifestyles for people with diabetes
The UK-based non-profit organization Healthtalkonline has interviews with people about their experiences of diabetes
The Genetic Landscape of Diabetes is published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information
More information on the InterAct study is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources and advice about diabetes and diabetes prevention (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4028183  PMID: 24845081
3.  Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F is caused by a microdeletion in the transportin 3 gene 
Brain  2013;136(5):1508-1517.
In 2001, we reported linkage of an autosomal dominant form of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, to chromosome 7q32.1-32.2, but the identity of the mutant gene was elusive. Here, using a whole genome sequencing strategy, we identified the causative mutation of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, a heterozygous single nucleotide deletion (c.2771del) in the termination codon of transportin 3 (TNPO3). This gene is situated within the chromosomal region linked to the disease and encodes a nuclear membrane protein belonging to the importin beta family. TNPO3 transports serine/arginine-rich proteins into the nucleus, and has been identified as a key factor in the HIV-import process into the nucleus. The mutation is predicted to generate a 15-amino acid extension of the C-terminus of the protein, segregates with the clinical phenotype, and is absent in genomic sequence databases and a set of >200 control alleles. In skeletal muscle of affected individuals, expression of the mutant messenger RNA and histological abnormalities of nuclei and TNPO3 indicate altered TNPO3 function. Our results demonstrate that the TNPO3 mutation is the cause of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, expand our knowledge of the molecular basis of muscular dystrophies and bolster the importance of defects of nuclear envelope proteins as causes of inherited myopathies.
PMCID: PMC3634201  PMID: 23543484
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F; LGMD1F; TNPO3; transportin 3; c.2771del mutation
4.  Genetic Variation in the Vitamin D Pathway in Relation to Risk of Prostate Cancer – Results from Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium (BPC3) 
Studies suggest that vitamin D status may be associated with prostate cancer risk, although the direction and strength of this association differs between experimental and observational studies. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants associated with 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) status. We examined prostate cancer risk in relation to SNPs in four genes shown to predict circulating levels of 25(OH)D.
SNP markers localized to each of four genes (GC, CYP24A1, CYP2R1, and DHCR7) previously associated with 25(OH)D were genotyped in 10,018 cases and 11,052 controls from the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium. Logistic regression was used to estimate the individual and cumulative association between genetic variants and risk of overall and aggressive prostate cancer.
We observed a decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer among men with the allele in rs6013897 near CYP24A1 associated with lower serum 25(OH)D (per A allele, OR=0.86, 95%CI=0.80–0.93, p-trend=0.0002), but an increased risk for non-aggressive disease (per a allele: OR=1.10, 95%CI=1.04–1.17, p-trend=0.002). Examination of a polygenic score of the four SNPs revealed statistically significantly lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer among men with a greater number of low vitamin D alleles (OR for 6–8 vs. 0–1 alleles = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.44 – 0.98; p-trend=0.003).
In this large, pooled analysis, genetic variants related to lower 25(OH)D were associated with a decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Our genetic findings do not support a protective association between loci known to influence vitamin D levels and prostate cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC3617077  PMID: 23377224
Vitamin D; prostatic neoplasms; data pooling; genes; SNPs
5.  Consumption of Dairy Products and Colorectal Cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72715.
Prospective studies have consistently reported lower colorectal cancer risks associated with higher intakes of total dairy products, total milk and dietary calcium. However, less is known about whether the inverse associations vary for individual dairy products with differing fat contents.
Materials and Methods
In the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), we investigated the associations between intakes of total milk and milk subtypes (whole-fat, semi-skimmed and skimmed), yoghurt, cheese, and dietary calcium with colorectal cancer risk amongst 477,122 men and women. Dietary questionnaires were administered at baseline. Multivariable hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for relevant confounding variables.
During the mean 11 years of follow-up, 4,513 incident cases of colorectal cancer occurred. After multivariable adjustments, total milk consumption was inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk (HR per 200 g/day 0.93, 95% CI: 0.89–0.98). Similar inverse associations were observed for whole-fat (HR per 200 g/day 0.90, 95% CI: 0.82–0.99) and skimmed milk (HR per 200 g/day 0.90, 95% CI: 0.79–1.02) in the multivariable models. Inverse associations were observed for cheese and yoghurt in the categorical models; although in the linear models, these associations were non-significant. Dietary calcium was inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk (HR per 200 mg/day 0.95, 95% CI: 0.91–0.99); this association was limited to dairy sources of calcium only (HR per 200 mg/day 0.95, 95% CI: 0.91–0.99), with no association observed for non-dairy calcium sources (HR per 200 mg/day 1.00, 95% CI: 0.81–1.24).
Our results strengthen the evidence for a possible protective role of dairy products on colorectal cancer risk. The inverse associations we observed did not differ by the fat content of the dairy products considered.
PMCID: PMC3759377  PMID: 24023767
6.  Erratum to 
Autophagy  2012;8(7):1163.
PMCID: PMC3429560
Lafora disease; autophagy; glycogen metabolism; laforin; malin; neurodegeneration
7.  Inhibition of 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl–Coenzyme A Reductase and Application of Statins as a Novel Effective Therapeutic Approach against Acanthamoeba Infections 
Acanthamoeba is an opportunistic pathogen in humans, whose infections most commonly manifest as Acanthamoeba keratitis or, more rarely, granulomatous amoebic encephalitis. Although there are many therapeutic options for the treatment of Acanthamoeba, they are generally lengthy and/or have limited efficacy. Therefore, there is a requirement for the identification, validation, and development of novel therapeutic targets against these pathogens. Recently, RNA interference (RNAi) has been widely used for these validation purposes and has proven to be a powerful tool for Acanthamoeba therapeutics. Ergosterol is one of the major sterols in the membrane of Acanthamoeba. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl–coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate, one of the precursors for the production of cholesterol in humans and ergosterol in plants, fungi, and protozoa. Statins are compounds which inhibit this enzyme and so are promising as chemotherapeutics. In order to validate whether this enzyme could be an interesting therapeutic target in Acanthamoeba, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against HMG-CoA were developed and used to evaluate the effects induced by the inhibition of Acanthamoeba HMG-CoA. It was found that HMG-CoA is a potential drug target in these pathogenic free-living amoebae, and various statins were evaluated in vitro against three clinical strains of Acanthamoeba by using a colorimetric assay, showing important activities against the tested strains. We conclude that the targeting of HMG-CoA and Acanthamoeba treatment using statins is a novel powerful treatment option against Acanthamoeba species in human disease.
PMCID: PMC3535909  PMID: 23114753
8.  Fruit and vegetable intake and type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct prospective study and meta-analysis 
European journal of clinical nutrition  2012;66(10):1082-1092.
Fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), but the epidemiological evidence is inconclusive. The aim of this study is to examine the prospective association of FVI with T2D and conduct an updated meta-analysis.
In the EPIC-InterAct (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer-InterAct) prospective case-cohort study nested within eight European countries, a representative sample of 16 154 participants and 12 403 incident cases of T2D were identified from 340 234 individuals with 3.99 million person-years of follow-up. For the meta-analysis we identified prospective studies on FVI and T2D risk by systematic searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE until April 2011.
In EPIC-InterAct, estimated FVI by dietary questionnaires varied more than two-fold between countries. In adjusted analyses the hazard ratio (95% confidence interval) comparing the highest with lowest quartile of reported intake was 0.90 (0.80-1.01) for FVI; 0.89 (0.76-1.04) for fruit, and 0.94 (0.84-1.05) for vegetables. Among FV sub-types, only root vegetables were inversely associated with diabetes 0.87 (0.77-0.99). In meta-analysis using pooled data from five studies including EPIC-InterAct, comparing the highest with lowest category for FVI was associated with a lower relative risk of diabetes (0.93 (0.87-1.00)). Fruit or vegetables separately were not associated with diabetes. Among FV sub-types, only green leafy vegetable intake (RR: 0.84 (0.74-0.94)) was inversely associated with diabetes.
Sub-types of vegetables, such as root vegetables or green leafy vegetables may be beneficial for the prevention of diabetes, while total FVI may exert a weaker overall effect.
PMCID: PMC3652306  PMID: 22854878
Fruit; vegetables; type 2 diabetes mellitus; epidemiology; meta-analysis; review
9.  Risk of type 2 diabetes according to traditional and emerging anthropometric indices in Spain, a Mediterranean country with high prevalence of obesity: results from a large-scale prospective cohort study 
Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). A proper anthropometric characterisation of T2DM risk is essential for disease prevention and clinical risk assessement.
Longitudinal study in 37 733 participants (63% women) of the Spanish EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) cohort without prevalent diabetes. Detailed questionnaire information was collected at baseline and anthropometric data gathered following standard procedures. A total of 2513 verified incident T2DM cases occurred after 12.1 years of mean follow-up. Multivariable Cox regression was used to calculate hazard ratios of T2DM by levels of anthropometric variables.
Overall and central obesity were independently associated with T2DM risk. BMI showed the strongest association with T2DM in men whereas waist-related indices were stronger independent predictors in women. Waist-to-height ratio revealed the largest area under the ROC curve in men and women, with optimal cut-offs at 0.60 and 0.58, respectively. The most discriminative waist circumference (WC) cut-off values were 99.4 cm in men and 90.4 cm in women. Absolute risk of T2DM was higher in men than women for any combination of age, BMI and WC categories, and remained low in normal-waist women. The population risk of T2DM attributable to obesity was 17% in men and 31% in women.
Diabetes risk was associated with higher overall and central obesity indices even at normal BMI and WC values. The measurement of waist circumference in the clinical setting is strongly recommended for the evaluation of future T2DM risk in women.
PMCID: PMC3575248  PMID: 23388074
Diabetes; Anthropometry; Obesity; Abdominal obesity; Body mass index; EPIC; Spain
10.  Hepatocellular Carcinoma Risk Factors and Disease Burden in a European Cohort: A Nested Case–Control Study 
To date, no attempt has been made to systematically determine the apportionment of the hepatocellular carcinoma burden in Europe or North America among established risk factors.
Using data collected from 1992 to 2006, which included 4 409 809 person-years in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC), we identified 125 case patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, of whom 115 were matched to 229 control subjects. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) for the association of documented risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma with incidence of this disease and estimated their importance in this European cohort.
Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection (OR = 9.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.10 to 39.50 and OR = 13.36, 95% CI = 4.11 to 43.45, respectively), obesity (OR = 2.13, 95% CI = 1.06 to 4.29), former or current smoking (OR = 1.98, 95% CI = 0.90 to 4.39 and OR = 4.55, 95% CI = 1.90 to 10.91, respectively), and heavy alcohol intake (OR = 1.77, 95% CI = 0.73 to 4.27) were associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. Smoking contributed to almost half of all hepatocellular carcinomas (47.6%), whereas 13.2% and 20.9% were attributable to chronic HBV and HCV infection, respectively. Obesity and heavy alcohol intake contributed 16.1% and 10.2%, respectively. Almost two-thirds (65.7%, 95% CI = 50.6% to 79.3%) of hepatocellular carcinomas can be accounted for by exposure to at least one of these documented risk factors.
Smoking contributed to more hepatocellular carcinomas in this Europe-wide cohort than chronic HBV and HCV infections. Heavy alcohol consumption and obesity also contributed to sizeable fractions of this disease burden. These contributions may be underestimates because EPIC volunteers are likely to be more health conscious than the general population.
PMCID: PMC3216968  PMID: 22021666
11.  Social Inequalities and Mortality in Europe – Results from a Large Multi-National Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39013.
Socio-economic inequalities in mortality are observed at the country level in both North America and Europe. The purpose of this work is to investigate the contribution of specific risk factors to social inequalities in cause-specific mortality using a large multi-country cohort of Europeans.
A total of 3,456,689 person/years follow-up of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) was analysed. Educational level of subjects coming from 9 European countries was recorded as proxy for socio-economic status (SES). Cox proportional hazard model's with a step-wise inclusion of explanatory variables were used to explore the association between SES and mortality; a Relative Index of Inequality (RII) was calculated as measure of relative inequality.
Total mortality among men with the highest education level is reduced by 43% compared to men with the lowest (HR 0.57, 95% C.I. 0.52–0.61); among women by 29% (HR 0.71, 95% C.I. 0.64–0.78). The risk reduction was attenuated by 7% in men and 3% in women by the introduction of smoking and to a lesser extent (2% in men and 3% in women) by introducing body mass index and additional explanatory variables (alcohol consumption, leisure physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake) (3% in men and 5% in women). Social inequalities were highly statistically significant for all causes of death examined in men. In women, social inequalities were less strong, but statistically significant for all causes of death except for cancer-related mortality and injuries.
In this European study, substantial social inequalities in mortality among European men and women which cannot be fully explained away by accounting for known common risk factors for chronic diseases are reported.
PMCID: PMC3405077  PMID: 22848347
12.  LRP-1 and LRP-2 receptors function in the membrane neuron. Trafficking mechanisms and proteolytic processing in Alzheimer's disease 
Low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP) belongs to the low-density lipoprotein receptor family, generally recognized as cell surface endocytic receptors, which bind and internalize extracellular ligands for degradation in lysosomes. Neurons require cholesterol to function and keep the membrane rafts stable. Cholesterol uptake into the neuron is carried out by ApoE via LRPs receptors on the cell surface. In neurons the most important are LRP-1 and LRP-2, even it is thought that a causal factor in Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the malfunction of this process which cause impairment intracellular signaling as well as storage and/or release of nutrients and toxic compounds. Both receptors are multifunctional cell surface receptors that are widely expressed in several tissues including neurons and astrocytes. LRPs are constituted by an intracellular (ICD) and extracellular domain (ECD). Through its ECD, LRPs bind at least 40 different ligands ranging from lipoprotein and protease inhibitor complex to growth factors and extracellular matrix proteins. These receptors has also been shown to interact with scaffolding and signaling proteins via its ICD in a phosphorylation-dependent manner and to function as a co-receptor partnering with other cell surface or integral membrane proteins. Thus, LRPs are implicated in two major physiological processes: endocytosis and regulation of signaling pathways, which are both involved in diverse biological roles including lipid metabolism, cell growth processes, degradation of proteases, and tissue invasion. Interestingly, LRPs were also localized in neurons in different stages, suggesting that both receptors could be implicated in signal transduction during embryonic development, neuronal outgrowth or in the pathogenesis of AD.
PMCID: PMC3429044  PMID: 22934024
Alzheimer's disease; astrocytes; amyloid-beta; intracellular domain; LRP-1; LRP-2; megalin; central nervous system; brain; neurodegenerative diseases; neuron
13.  Sources of Pre-Analytical Variations in Yield of DNA Extracted from Blood Samples: Analysis of 50,000 DNA Samples in EPIC 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39821.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) is a long-term, multi-centric prospective study in Europe investigating the relationships between cancer and nutrition. This study has served as a basis for a number of Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) and other types of genetic analyses. Over a period of 5 years, 52,256 EPIC DNA samples have been extracted using an automated DNA extraction platform. Here we have evaluated the pre-analytical factors affecting DNA yield, including anthropometric, epidemiological and technical factors such as center of subject recruitment, age, gender, body-mass index, disease case or control status, tobacco consumption, number of aliquots of buffy coat used for DNA extraction, extraction machine or procedure, DNA quantification method, degree of haemolysis and variations in the timing of sample processing. We show that the largest significant variations in DNA yield were observed with degree of haemolysis and with center of subject recruitment. Age, gender, body-mass index, cancer case or control status and tobacco consumption also significantly impacted DNA yield. Feedback from laboratories which have analyzed DNA with different SNP genotyping technologies demonstrate that the vast majority of samples (approximately 88%) performed adequately in different types of assays. To our knowledge this study is the largest to date to evaluate the sources of pre-analytical variations in DNA extracted from peripheral leucocytes. The results provide a strong evidence-based rationale for standardized recommendations on blood collection and processing protocols for large-scale genetic studies.
PMCID: PMC3396633  PMID: 22808065
14.  Dietary Fibre Intake and Risks of Cancers of the Colon and Rectum in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39361.
Earlier analyses within the EPIC study showed that dietary fibre intake was inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk, but results from some large cohort studies do not support this finding. We explored whether the association remained after longer follow-up with a near threefold increase in colorectal cancer cases, and if the association varied by gender and tumour location.
Methodology/Principal Findings
After a mean follow-up of 11.0 years, 4,517 incident cases of colorectal cancer were documented. Total, cereal, fruit, and vegetable fibre intakes were estimated from dietary questionnaires at baseline. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models stratified by age, sex, and centre, and adjusted for total energy intake, body mass index, physical activity, smoking, education, menopausal status, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptive use, and intakes of alcohol, folate, red and processed meats, and calcium. After multivariable adjustments, total dietary fibre was inversely associated with colorectal cancer (HR per 10 g/day increase in fibre 0.87, 95% CI: 0.79–0.96). Similar linear associations were observed for colon and rectal cancers. The association between total dietary fibre and risk of colorectal cancer risk did not differ by age, sex, or anthropometric, lifestyle, and dietary variables. Fibre from cereals and fibre from fruit and vegetables were similarly associated with colon cancer; but for rectal cancer, the inverse association was only evident for fibre from cereals.
Our results strengthen the evidence for the role of high dietary fibre intake in colorectal cancer prevention.
PMCID: PMC3382210  PMID: 22761771
15.  The contribution of risk factors to the higher incidence of invasive and in situ breast cancers in women with higher levels of education in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2010;173(1):26-37.
This paper aims to investigate the role of known risk factors in explaining educational differences in breast cancer incidence. Analyses were based on the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, and included 242,095 women, 433 in situ and 4,469 invasive breast cancers. Reproductive history (age at first full term pregnancy and parity), exposure to endogenous and exogenous hormones, height, and health behaviours were accounted for in the analyses. Relative indices of inequality (RII) for education were estimated using Cox regression models. Higher invasive breast cancer risk was found among women with higher education (RII=1.22: 1.09,1.37). This association was not observed among nulliparous women (RII=1.13: 0.84,1.52). Inequalities in breast cancer incidence decreased substantially after adjusting for reproductive history (RII=1.11: 0.98,1.25), most of the association being explained by age at first full term pregnancy. Each other risk factor explained a small additional part of inequalities in breast cancer incidence. Height contributed most of these factors. When all known risk factors were adjusted for, no association remained between education and invasive breast cancer risk. Inequalities in incidence were more pronounced for in situ breast cancers and remained after adjustment for all known risk factors (RII=1.61: 1.07,2.41), especially among nulliparous women.
PMCID: PMC3320860  PMID: 21084553
breast neoplasms; incidence; education; reproductive history; risk factors
16.  New Insights in the Amyloid-Beta Interaction with Mitochondria 
Journal of Aging Research  2012;2012:324968.
Biochemical and morphological alterations of mitochondria may play an important role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Particularly, mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of amyloid-beta-induced neuronal toxicity in Alzheimer's disease. The recent emphasis on the intracellular biology of amyloid-beta and its precursor protein (APP) has led researchers to consider the possibility that mitochondria-associated and mitochondrial amyloid-beta may directly cause neurotoxicity. Both proteins are known to localize to mitochondrial membranes, block the transport of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins to mitochondria, interact with mitochondrial proteins, disrupt the electron transport chain, increase reactive oxygen species production, cause mitochondrial damage, and prevent neurons from functioning normally. In this paper, we will outline current knowledge of the intracellular localization of amyloid-beta. Moreover, we summarize evidence from AD postmortem brain as well as animal AD models showing that amyloid-beta triggers mitochondrial dysfunction through a number of pathways such as impairment of oxidative phosphorylation, elevation of reactive oxygen species production, alteration of mitochondrial dynamics, and interaction with mitochondrial proteins. Thus, this paper supports the Alzheimer cascade mitochondrial hypothesis such as the most important early events in this disease, and probably one of the future strategies on the therapy of this neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC3317193  PMID: 22523685
17.  Liposomes for Targeted Delivery of Active Agents against Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease) 
Journal of Drug Delivery  2011;2011:469679.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease represent a huge unmet medical need. The prevalence of both diseases is increasing, but the efficacy of treatment is still very limited due to various factors including the blood brain barrier (BBB). Drug delivery to the brain remains the major challenge for the treatment of all neurodegenerative diseases because of the numerous protective barriers surrounding the central nervous system. New therapeutic drugs that cross the BBB are critically needed for treatment of many brain diseases. One of the significant factors on neurotherapeutics is the constraint of the blood brain barrier and the drug release kinetics that cause peripheral serious side effects. Contrary to common belief, neurodegenerative and neurological diseases may be multisystemic in nature, and this presents numerous difficulties for their potential treatment. Overall, the aim of this paper is to summarize the last findings and news related to liposome technology in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and demonstrate the potential of this technology for the development of novel therapeutics and the possible applications of liposomes in the two most widespread neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3238398  PMID: 22203906
18.  Alcohol intake and pancreatic cancer: a pooled analysis from the pancreatic cancer cohort consortium (PanScan) 
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2010;21(8):1213-1225.
The literature has consistently reported no association between low to moderate alcohol consumption and pancreatic cancer; however, a few studies have shown that high levels of intake may increase risk. Most single studies have limited power to detect associations even in the highest alcohol intake categories or to examine associations by alcohol type. We analyzed these associations using 1,530 pancreatic cancer cases and 1,530 controls from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan) nested case–control study. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated using unconditional logistic regression, adjusting for potential confounders. We observed no significant overall association between total alcohol (ethanol) intake and pancreatic cancer risk (OR = 1.38, 95% CI = 0.86–2.23, for 60 or more g/day vs. >0 to <5 g/day). A statistically significant increase in risk was observed among men consuming 45 or more grams of alcohol from liquor per day (OR = 2.23, 95% CI = 1.02–4.87, compared to 0 g/day of alcohol from liquor, P-trend = 0.12), but not among women (OR = 1.35, 95% CI = 0.63–2.87, for 30 or more g/day of alcohol from liquor, compared to none). No associations were noted for wine or beer intake. Overall, no significant increase in risk was observed, but a small effect among heavy drinkers cannot be ruled out.
PMCID: PMC3098295  PMID: 20373013
Alcohol; Pancreatic cancer; Pooled analysis
19.  Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in Murcia Region, a southern European Mediterranean area with low cardiovascular risk and high obesity 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:562.
Metabolic syndrome (MS) is associated with subsequent appearance of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As compared to other Spanish regions, Murcia (southern Spain) registers increased obesity as well as cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of MS and its components, awareness of obesity as a health risk and associated lifestyles.
A population-based, cross-sectional study was conducted in 2003, covering a sample of 1555 individuals 20 years and over. MS was defined according to the Revised National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (R-ATPIII), International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and Joint Interim Statement (JIS) criteria. Both low (94/80) and high (102/88) waist circumference (WC) thresholds were considered.
Prevalence of MS was 27.2% (95%CI: 25.2-29.2), 32.2% (95%CI: 30.1-34.3) and 33.2% (95%CI: 31.2-35.3) according to the R-ATPIII, IDF and JIS94/80 respectively. It increased with age until reaching 52.6% (R-ATPIII) or 60.3% (JIS94/80) among persons aged 70 years and over, and was higher in persons with little or no formal education (51.7% R-ATPIII, 57.3% JIS94/80). The most common risk factors were hypertension (46.6%) and central obesity (40.7% and 66.1% according to high and low WC cut-off points respectively). Although most persons were aware that obesity increased health risks, regular exercise was very unusual (13.0% centrally obese, 27.2% non-centrally obese). Adherence to dietary recommendations was similar among centrally obese and non-centrally obese subjects.
Prevalence of MS is high in our population, is comparable to that found in northern Europe and varies with the definition used. Adherence to preventive recommendations and to adequate weight promotion is very low. In the absence of a specific treatment for MS, integrated intervention based on a sustained increase in physical activity and changes in diet should be reinforced.
PMCID: PMC3152535  PMID: 21752307
20.  Therapeutic Potential of a Combination of Two Gene-Specific Small Interfering RNAs against Clinical Strains of Acanthamoeba▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(12):5151-5155.
Pathogenic strains of the genus Acanthamoeba are causative agents of severe infections, such as fatal encephalitis and a sight-threatening amoebic keratitis. Antimicrobial therapy for these infections is generally empirical, and patient recovery is often problematic, due to the existence of a highly resistant cyst stage in these amoebae. In previous studies, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) against the catalytic domains of extracellular serine proteases and glycogen phosphorylase from Acanthamoeba were designed and evaluated for future therapeutic use. The silencing of proteases resulted in Acanthamoeba failing to degrade human corneal cells, and silencing of glycogen phosphorylase caused amoebae to be unable to form mature cysts. After the siRNA design and concentration were optimized in order to avoid toxicity problems, cultures of Acanthamoeba were treated with a combination of both siRNAs, and cells were evaluated under an inverted microscope. This siRNA-based treatment dramatically affected the growth rate and cellular survival of the amoebae. These results were observed less than 48 h after the initiation of the treatment. In order to check possible toxic effects of the siRNA combination, three eukaryotic cell lines (HeLa, murine macrophages, and osteosarcoma cells) were treated with the same molecules, and cytotoxicity was examined by measuring lactate dehydrogenase release. The future use of the combination of these siRNAs is proposed as a potential therapeutic approach against pathogenic strains of Acanthamoeba.
PMCID: PMC2981231  PMID: 20855732
21.  Reproductive factors and exogenous hormone use in relation to risk of glioma and meningioma in a large European cohort study 
The aetiologies of glioma and meningioma tumors are largely unknown. Although reproductive hormones are thought to influence the risk of these tumors, epidemiologic data are not supportive of this hypothesis; however, few cohort studies have published on this topic. We examined the relation between reproductive factors and risk of glioma and meningioma among women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
After a mean of 8.4 years of follow-up, 193 glioma and 194 meningioma were identified among 276,212 women. Information on reproductive factors and hormone use was collected at baseline. Cox proportional hazard regression was used to determine hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
No associations were observed between glioma or meningioma risk and reproductive factors, including age at menarche, parity, age at first birth, menopausal status, and age at menopause. A higher risk of meningioma was observed among postmenopausal women who were current users of hormone replacement therapy (HR = 1.62, 95% CI = 1.04-2.54) compared with never users. Similarly, current users of oral contraceptives were at higher risk of meningioma than never users (HR = 3.61, 95% CI = 1.75-7.46).
Our results do not support a role for estrogens and glioma risk. Use of exogenous hormones, especially current use, appears to increase meningioma risk. However, these findings could be due to diagnostic bias and require confirmation.
Elucidating the role of hormones in brain tumor development has important implications and needs to be further examined using biological measurements.
PMCID: PMC2990203  PMID: 20802020
Brain tumors; glioma; meningioma; reproductive factors; exogenous hormone use; oral contraceptive use; hormone replacement therapy; cohort studies
22.  Plasma vitamins B2, B6, B12, and related genetic variants as predictors of colorectal cancer risk 
B-vitamins are essential for one-carbon metabolism and have been linked to colorectal cancer (CRC). Although associations with folate have frequently been studied, studies on other plasma vitamins B2, B6, and B12 and CRC are scarce or inconclusive.
Nested case-control study within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, including 1365 incident CRC cases and 2319 controls matched for study center, age, and sex. We measured the sum of B2 species riboflavin and flavin mononucleotide, and the sum of B6 species pyridoxal 5′-phosphate, pyridoxal, and 4-pyridoxic acid as indicators for vitamin B2 and B6 status, as well as vitamin B12 in plasma samples collected at baseline. In addition, we determined eight polymorphisms related to one-carbon metabolism. Relative risks (RRs) for CRC were estimated using conditional logistic regression, adjusted for smoking, education, physical activity, BMI, alcohol consumption, and intakes of fiber, red- and processed meat.
RRs comparing highest to lowest quintile (95% confidence interval, Ptrend) were: 0.71 (0.56–0.91, 0.02) for vitamin B2, 0.68 (0.53–0.87, <0.001) for vitamin B6, and 1.02 (0.80–1.29, 0.19) for vitamin B12. The associations for vitamin B6 were stronger in males who consumed ≥ 30g alcohol/day. The polymorphisms were not associated with CRC.
Higher plasma concentrations of vitamins B2 and B6 are associated with a lower CRC risk.
This European population-based study is the first to indicate that vitamin B2 is inversely associated with CRC, and is in agreement to previously suggested inverse associations of vitamin B6 with CRC.
PMCID: PMC3025315  PMID: 20813848
Plasma vitamins B2, B6, and B12; genetic variants; colorectal cancer; prospective study
23.  Characterizing Associations and SNP-Environment Interactions for GWAS-Identified Prostate Cancer Risk Markers—Results from BPC3 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17142.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with prostate cancer risk. However, whether these associations can be consistently replicated, vary with disease aggressiveness (tumor stage and grade) and/or interact with non-genetic potential risk factors or other SNPs is unknown. We therefore genotyped 39 SNPs from regions identified by several prostate cancer GWAS in 10,501 prostate cancer cases and 10,831 controls from the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium (BPC3). We replicated 36 out of 39 SNPs (P-values ranging from 0.01 to 10−28). Two SNPs located near KLK3 associated with PSA levels showed differential association with Gleason grade (rs2735839, P = 0.0001 and rs266849, P = 0.0004; case-only test), where the alleles associated with decreasing PSA levels were inversely associated with low-grade (as defined by Gleason grade <8) tumors but positively associated with high-grade tumors. No other SNP showed differential associations according to disease stage or grade. We observed no effect modification by SNP for association with age at diagnosis, family history of prostate cancer, diabetes, BMI, height, smoking or alcohol intake. Moreover, we found no evidence of pair-wise SNP-SNP interactions. While these SNPs represent new independent risk factors for prostate cancer, we saw little evidence for effect modification by other SNPs or by the environmental factors examined.
PMCID: PMC3044744  PMID: 21390317
24.  Plasma folate, related genetic variants and colorectal cancer risk in EPIC 
A potential dual role of folate in colorectal cancer (CRC) is currently subject to debate. Previous studies on plasma folate and CRC risk were small and inconclusive. We therefore investigate associations between plasma folate, a number of relevant folate-related polymorphisms and CRC risk. In this nested case-control study within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort, 1367 incident CRC cases were matched to 2325 controls for study center, age and sex. Risk ratios (RR) were estimated with conditional logistic regression and further adjusted for smoking, education, physical activity, and intake of alcohol and fiber. Overall analyses did not reveal associations of plasma folate with CRC. The RR (95% CI), Ptrend) for the fifth vs. the first quintile of folate status was 0.94 ((0.74; 1.20), 0.44). The polymorphisms MTHFR 677C→T, MTHFR 1298A→C, MTR 2756A→G, MTRR 66A→G, and MTHFD1 1958G→A were not associated with CRC risk. However, in individuals with the lowest plasma folate concentrations, the MTHFR 677TT genotype showed a statistically non-significant increased CRC risk (RR (95% CI, Ptrend) TT vs. CC =1.39 (0.87; 2.21), 0.12), whereas in those with the highest folate concentrations showed a non-significant decreased CRC risk (RR TT vs. CC=0.74 (0.39; 1.37), 0.34). The SLC19A1 80G→A showed a positive association with CRC risk (RR AA vs. GG1.30 (1.06; 1.59), <0.01).
Within this large European prospective multicenter study we did not observe an association of CRC risk with plasma folate status, nor with the MTHFR polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC2880712  PMID: 20447924
Plasma folate; genetic variants; colorectal cancer; prospective study
25.  Cardiovascular risk estimated after 13 years of follow-up in a low-incidence Mediterranean region with high-prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:640.
Murcia (south-east Spain) shows increased cardiovascular (CV) morbimortality as compared to other Spanish regions. Our objective was to assess the CV risk associated with major risk factors (RF) among adult population of Murcia.
A cohort of 2314 subjects (18-70 years) with full biochemical and questionnaire data was followed-up for 13 years. Incident cases of ischemic heart disease and stroke were identified by record linkage, individual questionnaires and revision of medical records. Relative risks were obtained by multivariate Cox regression stratified by age and sex, and ischemic risk attributable to CVRF was calculated.
After more than 26276 person-years of follow-up, 57 incident ischemic events (77% men) and 37 stroke cases (62% men) were identified. Independent risk factors of ischemic heart disease (IHD) and all CV events combined, with RR ranging from 1.6 to 2.6, were total serum cholesterol ≥ 240 mg/dl (HR = 2.6, 95%CI:1.3-5.1), blood pressure levels ≥ 140/90 mmHg (HR = 2.6, 95%CI:1.4-4.8), ever tobacco smoking (HR = 2.2; 95%CI:1.1-4.5), and diabetes (HR = 2.0; 95%CI: 1.0-3.8). No increased CV risk was detected for known participants under treatment who showed cholesterol and blood pressure values below the clinical risk threshold. Smoking was significantly associated with stroke. For all events combined, the major risk factors were hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and ever use of tobacco. Despite its high prevalence, obesity was not associated to CV risk. Most of the IHD cases were attributable to smoking (44%), hypertension (38%) and hypercholesterolemia (26%).
In the Region of Murcia, smoking accounted for the largest proportion of cardiovascular risk, whereas hypertension displaced hypercholesterolemia as the second leading cause of CV disease. Our study deepens in our understanding of the cardiovascular epidemiology in Spanish areas of Mediterranean Europe with relatively high cardiovascular morbimortality, that are poorly represented by the available risk equations.
PMCID: PMC3091564  PMID: 20969808

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