News / Health

Gene Study Uncovers Origins of Many Common Cancers

Lab officer cuts DNA fragment under UV light from an agarose gel for DNA sequencing as part of research to determine genetic mutation in a blood cancer patient, Singapore, file photo.
Lab officer cuts DNA fragment under UV light from an agarose gel for DNA sequencing as part of research to determine genetic mutation in a blood cancer patient, Singapore, file photo.
Reuters
Researchers in Britain have set out the first comprehensive map of mutational processes behind the development of tumors — work that should in future lead to better ways to treat and prevent a wide range of cancers.
 
In a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, researchers who analyzed more than 7,000 genomes, or genetic codes, of common forms of cancer uncovered 21 so-called "signatures" of processes that mutate DNA.
 
"[This] is an important step to discovering the processes that drive cancer formation," said Serena Nik-Zainal of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute who worked on the research.
 
"Through detailed analysis, we can start to use the overwhelming amounts of information buried deep in the DNA of cancers to our advantage in terms of understanding how and why cancers arise."
 
All cancers are caused by mutations in DNA occurring in cells of the body during someone's lifetime.
 
Scientists are clear about some things, such as that chemicals in tobacco smoke cause mutations in lung cells that lead to lung cancers, or that ultraviolet light triggers mutations in skin cells that lead to skin cancers.
 
But they have yet to figure out the biological processes that cause mutations behind most common cancers.
 
"We're beginning to know quite a lot about what the consequences of those mutations are. But actually we have a really rudimentary understanding of what is causing the mutations in the first place," said Mike Stratton, the Sanger Institute's director and the lead researcher on this study.
 
"And after all, the things that are causing those mutations are the causes of cancer."
 
The team analyzed the genetic codes of 7,042 cases of cancer in people from around the world, covering 30 different types of the disease, to see if they could find patterns, or signatures, of mutational processes.
 
They discovered that all the cancers contained two or more signatures — a finding that shows the variety of processes that work together when a cancer develops.
 
They also found that different cancers have different numbers of mutational processes. While two mutational processes underlie the development of ovarian cancer, there are six behind the development of liver cancer, the researchers said.
 
And some signatures are found in multiple cancer types, while others are only found in one type. Out of the 30 cancers, 25 had signatures from mutational processes linked to aging.
 
In a suggestion of what might be behind many common cancers, the team also discovered that a family of enzymes called APOBECs, known to mutate DNA, was linked to more than half of the cancer types studied.
 
APOBECs can be activated when the body is responding to a viral infection. The researchers said it may be that the resulting “signatures” are collateral damage on the human genome caused by the enzymes acting to protect cells from viruses.
 
Stratton described the results as like uncovering the "archeological traces" of the many mutational processes that lead to most cancers.
 
"This compendium of mutational signatures and the consequent insights into the mutational processes underlying them has profound implications for the understanding of cancer."

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jonathan from: USA
August 14, 2013 4:42 PM
The headline, "Gene Study Uncovers Origins of Many Common Cancers," is completely untrue. The article mentions only one cancer cause: smoking, which was identified long ago without the need for genetic investigations.

Lifestyle factors cause most cancers and focusing on genes is a red herring. It will not identify the actual cause. For example, the cause of breast cancer is chronic constriction, due to the perverse custom of wearing bras. This is explained at http://www.isisboston.com/assets/PDF-Files/Bras-and-Breast-Cancer.pdf

The cause of colon cancer is the unnatural method of defecation used in western society. Humans were designed to squat for bodily functions. The sitting position results in incomplete emptying of the colon, leading to fecal stagnation, bacterial overgrowth, and inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes malignant mutations. This is explained at http://www.naturesplatform.com/health_benefits.html . Both breast cancer and colon cancer are confined to the "western" world or to countries that have adopted the above-mentioned western customs.

In Response

by: Jonathan from: usa
August 15, 2013 12:13 PM
They are present in the urban areas of the East, because the residents, wanting to appear "progressive", have adopted western toilets and western undergarments like bras. Genetics-based therapies include prophylactic mastectomies and heavy use of drugs. These treatments do not address the cause of the disease. Those profiting from the treatments strongly oppose research into the lifestyle causes.

In Response

by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
August 15, 2013 6:49 AM
This is too simplistic view a out the etiology of colon and breast cancers. These two cancers are not just restricted to the western world, but have also been present in the East and other countries. However, the writter raises interesting scenarios. A detailed epidiomological study is needed before a strong correlation s established. Regardless, the cancer signatures hold promise for the diagnosis and therapy. In that sense, this study is very exciting.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid