Scientists hope the human genome map will help them track down the gene that causes nose and throat cancer by the middle of the year. Nasopharyngeal cancer strikes 1,000 people in Hong Kong each year, most of them men aged between 40 and 45. Using the genome map, a 10-member team at Chinese University's pathology department has narrowed down its search to about 20 genes, said Professor Dolly Huang Poon Wai-sin of the Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology. She said she hoped the cancer gene could be identified by the middle of the year. The department's scientific officer, Lo Kwok-wai, said the human genome sequence was like the 'police who help us spot the gang'. Once the relevant gene or genes are identified, scientists can focus on developing diagnostic markers to identify those at risk of developing nose and throat cancer. The markers are also important in determining the prognosis of patients with advanced cancer. Scientists believe that the nose and throat cancer gene may also be involved in cancers of the lung, liver and breast. Much of the understanding of nasopharyngeal cancer, which kills 400 people a year in the SAR and particularly affects southern Chinese, has been due to work by Hong Kong academics in the past 20 years. Last week, Chinese University doctors announced that a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy dramatically improved the survival rate for patients with advanced form of nasopharyngeal cancer.