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Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 2018 Sep-Oct;15(5):387-393. doi: 10.21873/cgp.20097.

Expression of the Vesicular Monoamine Transporter Gene Solute Carrier Family 18 Member 1 (SLC18A1) in Lung Cancer.

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Fermata Pharma, Inc., New York, NY, U.S.A.
Severn Health Solutions, Severna Park, MD, U.S.A.



One aspect of smoking and lung cancer that has not been closely examined, is that regarding genes that may predispose to tobacco dependence. Smoking and mental illness are tightly linked, apparently the result of smokers using cigarettes to self-medicate for mental problems. The gene for solute carrier family 18 member A1 (vesicular monoamine transporter; SLC18A1) is of particular interest in this regard because of its association with schizophrenia, autism and bipolar illness as well as with cancer. In the current study, the relationship of SLC18A1 expression with smoking and lung cancer was analyzed.


The association between smoking, SLC18A1 expression and overall survival in the lung cancer dataset in The Cancer Genome Atlas was evaluated using the Genomic Data Commons Data Portal (, as well as CbioPortal for Cancer Genomics ( and the University of California Santa Cruz Xena browser (


Increased expression of SLC18A1 was found to be associated with a significantly increased survival in patients with adenocarcinoma (p=0.0058), but not those with squamous carcinoma (p=0.96). Lifelong never-smokers had the highest SLC18A1 expression. In the Pan Cancer Atlas, increased expression of SLC18A1 places such a tumor in group C5, among immunologically-quiet tumors.


Most never-smokers with lung cancer do not respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). But for unknown reasons, a small proportion do show clinical benefit from the ICI pembrolizumab. Because of the good response of this group, it may be worthwhile assessing their SLC18A1 expression pre-treatment as a marker for potential clinical benefit. If SLC18A1 expression is low, a never-smoker may respond well to ICIs. High levels of expression would indicate a C5 tumor less likely to respond to ICIs. SLC18A1 might complement other biomarkers currently under study in relation to programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 inhibition.


Pembrolizumab; SLC18A1; lung cancer; nivolumab; the Cancer Genome Atlas

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