The metabolic activity of cytochrome P-450 enzymes has been associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. We found previously that all-trans retinoic acid is catabolized by these oxidative enzymes, and that an inhibitor of this system discriminated between two populations of lung cancer patients. We examined the association between this metabolic phenotype and the risk of lung cancer in 85 subjects. The area under the plasma concentration × time curve (AUC) was calculated after a single oral dose of all-trans retinoic acid (45 mg/m2). The mean AUC for patients who had either squamous or large cell carcinomas was significantly lower than that of patients with adenocarcinomas (P = 0.0001) or control subjects (P = 0.01). Individuals with an AUC < 250 ng·h/ml had a greater likelihood of having squamous or large cell carcinoma (odds ratio = 5.93). This study suggests that the “rapid” catabolism of all-trans retinoic acid is linked to an increased risk of squamous or large cell cancers of the lung.

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Supported by CA-57645 from the National Cancer Institute. Department of Health and Human Services. J. R. R. and V. A. M. are recipients of the American Cancer Society Clinical Oncology Career Development Award.

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