Variation in the HFE gene is associated with the development of bleomycin-induced pulmonary toxicity in testicular cancer patients

Published:March 28, 2016DOI:


      • Variants in the HFE gene, H63D and C282Y, lead to accumulation of extracellular iron in lungs.
      • Iron handling may play a role in development of bleomycin- and cisplatin-induced toxicity.
      • The H63D variant is associated with a higher prevalence of bleomycin-induced pulmonary toxicity.



      Bleomycin and cisplatin are of key importance in testicular cancer treatment. Known potential serious adverse effects are bleomycin-induced pulmonary toxicity (BIP) and cisplatin-induced renal toxicity. Iron handling may play a role in development of this toxicity. Carriage of allelic variants of the HFE gene induces altered iron metabolism and may contribute to toxicity. We investigated the association between two common allelic variants of the HFE gene, H63D and C282Y, with development of pulmonary and renal toxicity during and after treatment with bleomycin- and cisplatin-containing chemotherapy.


      In 369 testicular cancer patients treated with bleomycin and cisplatin at the University Medical Center Groningen between 1978 and 2006, H63D and/or C282Y genotypes were determined with an allelic discrimination assay. Data were collected on development of BIP, pulmonary function parameters, renal function, and survival.


      BIP developed more frequently in patients who were heterozygote (16 in 75, 21%) and homozygote (2 in 4, 50%) for the H63D variant, compared with those who had the HFE wild-type gene (31 in 278, 11%) (p = 0.012). Overall survival, testicular cancer-related survival, and change in renal function were not associated with the H63D variant.


      We observed an association between presence of one or both H63D alleles and development of BIP in testicular cancer patients treated with bleomycin combination chemotherapy. In patients heterozygote and homozygote for the H63D variant, BIP occurred more frequently compared with wild-type patients. When validated and confirmed, HFE H63D genotyping may be used to identify patients with increased risk for pulmonary bleomycin toxicity.


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