The use of DNA repair scores could help with lung cancer risk prediction, according to a new study.

The DNA repair score is calculated from the DNA repair enzymatic activities of OGG1, MPG, and APE1, “which act primarily on oxidative DNA damage.” This score was used in a previous study of an Israeli population that showed that low DNA repair score was a lung cancer risk factor. 

“Screening for early detection of lung cancer based on the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) criteria (age, heavy smoking) is expected to apply to about 7.5% of all smokers/ex-smokers in the USA, and detect about 27% of lung cancers,” the researchers wrote. “This leaves 92.5% of smokers and former smokers in the USA, and 73% of lung cancer cases with no proper risk assessment for early detection of lung cancer.”

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This study sought to validate a prior study by looking at DNA repair score in 150 individuals with non-small cell lung cancer and 143 control subjects. 

In all, participants with NSCLC had lower DNA repair scores compared with the control participants. The mean score in NSCLC participants was 2.67 compared with 4.00 in the other cohort (P <.001). 

Those with the lowest quartile score had a 7-times higher risk for lung cancer compared with participants in the highest DNA repair score quartile (odds ratio [OR], 7.2; 95% CI, 3.0-17.5; P <.001). This result was independent of smoking status. 

Use of the DNA repair score combined with age and smoking status in receiver operating characteristics curves yielded an area under the curve of 0.89 (95% CI, 0.82-0.93). When DNA repair score was assessed alone, the AUC was 0.81. 

“Our results suggest that adding the DNA repair score to the age and smoking considerations is likely to improve risk assessment of individuals,” the researchers wrote. 


Paz-Elizur T, Leitner-Dagan Y, Meyer KB, et al. DNA-repair biomarker for lung cancer risk and its correlation with airway cells gene expression. [published online September 12, 2019]. JNCI Cancer Spectrum. doi: 10.1093/jncics/pkz067