By Ross Bonander, Sun, October 20, 2013
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified 127 repeatedly mutated genes that may drive both the development and the progression of several human tumors, including many entirely unrelated to one another.
Reporting in the journal Nature in a study that is the first of its kind, scientists demonstrated that many of the same genetic mutations occur across several types of cancer. A frequently occurring blood cancer mutation also shows up in cancers of the lung, breast, rectum, ovary and uterus, for instance.
This discovery is only possible because genome sequencing has become much cheaper and much faster than ever before, making the analyzing of DNA a much easier process than ever.
Identifying universal genes
Said senior author Li Ding, Ph.D., of The Genome Institute at Washington University:
This is just the beginning. Many oncologists and scientists have wondered whether it’s possible to come up with a complete list of cancer genes responsible for all human cancers. I think we’re getting closer to that.
In order to reach their conclusions for this study, investigators analyzed the genes from 3,281 tumors, specifically tumors occurring in the:
- Head and Neck
Being able to analyze this many tumor genomes grants researchers what they need most: the statistical power to identify significantly mutated genes, the ones that are most important in tumor development. Treatments can then be targeted against these mutations.
Because we now know, for example, that genes mutated in leukemia also can be altered in breast cancer and that genetic errors in lung cancer also can show up in colon and rectal cancer, we think one inclusive diagnostic test that includes all cancer genes would be ideal. This would provide a more complete picture of what’s going on in a tumor, and that information could be used to make decisions about treatment.
Their research is ongoing.