Scientists find genetic mutations that drive cancer
By examining 12 major types of cancer, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified 127 repeatedly mutated genes that appear to drive the development and progression of a range of tumors. The research, published in Nature, shows that some of the same genes commonly mutated in certain cancers also occur in unrelated tumors. For instance, researchers found that the gene mutation present in 25 percent of leukemia cases is the same in tumors of the breast, rectum, head and neck, kidney, lung, ovary, and uterus.
The research analyzed the genes from 3,281 tumors from varius types of cancer. In addition to finding common links among genes in different cancers, the researchers also identified a number of mutations exclusive to particular cancer types.
Based on these findings, the researchers envision the development of a single diagnostic test that surveys mutations in a swath of cancer genes. And such testing could guide treatment decisions for patients based on the unique genetic makeup of their tumors.
"This is just the beginning," said senior author Dr. Li Ding, of The Genome Institute at Washington University. "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."