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Massive, Decade-Long Genome Study Concludes, Shows How and Why Cancers and Tumors Form


Cancer is a disease of the genome, caused by a cell’s acquisition of somatic mutations in key cancer genes. These mutations alter pathways involved in regulating cellular growth and interactions with the tissue environment. This study focused more on the varying degree of mutations involved in each type of cancer, and one of the most surprising results was how different the genome of the same cancer appeared from one person to the next. The project brought included over 1,300 researchers globally to sequence the genomes of 38 types of cancer in nearly 2,800 patients. Their work produced a host of new discoveries, from the number and location of driver mutations┬áthat push cells to reproduce uncontrollably, to the surprising similarities between cancers found in different types of tissue.


Lincoln Stein, a member of the project steering committee, in a statement issued by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research:

“With the knowledge we have gained about the origins and evolution of tumours, we can develop new tools and therapies to detect cancer earlier, develop more targeted therapies and treat patients more successfully,”

Peter Campbell of the Wellcome Sanger Institute:

“This shows that the window of opportunity for early intervention is much wider than we expected,” … “If we can understand the forces at play in our normal organs as we age, what causes mutations to accumulate, what causes some clones to expand and others to fade, what lifestyles do to tilt this balance, then we can think about ways to intervene early, with a view to preventing or slowing the emergence of untreatable cancers.”


To see the findings of the study in the scientific journal ‘Nature’, click here.