PURPOSE - Germ line polymorphisms may confer susceptibility to lung cancer in never smokers, but studies in the United States have been limited by the low number of cases seen at single institutions. We hypothesized that we could use the Internet to bolster the accrual of appropriate patients.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - We established an Internet-based protocol to collect blood and information from patients throughout the United States. To illustrate the power of this approach, we used these samples, plus additional cases and age-matched controls from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY) and the Aichi Cancer Center (Nagoya, Japan), to analyze germ line DNA for genetic variants reportedly associated with lung cancer susceptibility. The genotypes for the polymorphisms rs763317 (intron 1) and T790M (exon 20) in the EGFR gene were determined by direct sequencing, and CHRNA3 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs8034191 and rs1051730) were genotyped as part of a pilot genome-wide association study.
RESULTS - We successfully analyzed germ line DNA from 369 cases, including 45 obtained via the Internet, and 342 controls. A germ line EGFR T790M variant was identified in 2 of the 369 cases (0.54%; 95% confidence interval, 0.21-1.29%), and in none of the 292 controls (P = 0.21). No difference was observed in EGFR rs763317 frequency between cases and controls. Similarly, neither CHRNA3 rs8034191 nor rs1051730 were associated with lung cancer risk.
CONCLUSIONS - The Internet provides a way to recruit patients throughout the country for minimal risk studies. This approach could be used to facilitate studies of germ line polymorphisms in specific groups of patients with cancer.