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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs