Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_94099

Cancer treatment should be based on gene 'fingerprints', says study

7 May 2013
Appeared in BioNews 703

Genetic analysis of tumours provides the key to treating them effectively, according to two studies carried out by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).

The studies, into endometrial cancer and leukemia, could change the way that tumours and characterised and treated, if findings are validated with large-scale clinical trials.

Endometrial (womb) cancer is typically divided into two main categories: endometrioid, which is treated with radiotherapy; and serous, which is treated with chemotherapy. In order to determine which course of treatment should be followed, pathologists divide the cancers into subtypes by looking at tissue samples on slides.

However, the new research, published in Nature, suggests that the tumours should be classified by their 'molecular fingerprints' instead. When researchers analysed the genomes of almost 400 endometrial tumours, they found that there were four different subtypes which differed in mutation rates and changes in copy number of sections of DNA.

For example, around a quarter of the endometrioid cancers studied had similar mutations in the tumour suppressor gene TP53 to serous tumours, suggesting that they could benefit from similar treatments. The researchers hope that this will change clinical practice, stating that: 'clinicians should carefully consider treating copy-number-altered endometrioid patients with chemotherapy rather than adjuvant radiotherapy and formally test such hypotheses in prospective clinical trials'.

These findings need to be validated with further research, but could mean a move towards more personalised treatment for endometrial cancer. The researchers also found links in patterns of mutations with breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers, which may mean that endometrial tumours could respond to treatments developed for other types of cancer.

'This study highlights the fact that some tumours with the same characterization by pathologists may have very different molecular features. That’s where these findings will be directly implemented in additional research, and also in the context of clinical trials', said Dr Douglas Levine, a co-leader in the study.

TGCA researchers have also been looking into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and the most common form of leukaemia in adults. They analysed samples from 200 people with newly diagnosed disease, and found a relatively low number of mutations in this form of cancer - an average of just 13 per patient - but high levels of epigenetic changes, changes to gene expression that are not caused by the underlying DNA structure.

While the interplay of genes and epigenetics is complex in leukaemia, knowing more about these patterns could help doctors predict how severe the disease is likely to be, and so make better choices for treatment.

'We've never had such a complete picture of AML, and this data set will be mined by researchers for years', said co-study leader Dr Richard Wilson, director of Washington University’s Genome Institute. 'These findings have probably identified every pathway in which a modification – and perhaps new drugs – might be beneficial'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Cancers Share Gene Patterns, Studies Affirm
New York Times |  1 May 2013
Endometrial and acute myeloid leukemia cancer genomes characterized
National Cancer Institute (press release) |  1 May 2013
Genetic links in aggressive cancer
The Australian |  3 May 2013
Genomes provide clues for treating leukemia, endometrial cancers
Los Angeles Times |  1 May 2013
Genomic and Epigenomic Landscapes of Adult De Novo Acute Myeloid Leukemia
The New England Journal of Medicine |  1 May 2013
Integrated genomic characterization of endometrial carcinoma
Nature |  1 May 2013
Study Establishes Basis for Genomic Classification of Endometrial Cancers
The Cancer Genome Atlas (press release) |  1 May 2013
TCGA Researchers Identify Potential Drug Targets, Markers for Leukemia Risk
The Cancer Genome Atlas (press release) |  1 May 2013
US researchers unveil womb cancer and acute leukaemia genomes
Cancer Research UK |  1 May 2013
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
20 November 2017 - by Marcia Costa 
A team of scientists in Germany has developed a 'sensor' that detects mutations in the key tumour suppressor gene p53 and then kills potentially cancerous cells...
30 August 2016 - by Ebtehal Moussa 
A new genetic test could predict which patients with early-stage breast cancer patients would benefit from chemotherapy...
7 March 2016 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
A collaboration between scientists from around the world has identified four subtypes of pancreatic cancer...
20 April 2015 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Genetic testing to guide the choice of cancer treatment may be misleading unless tumour DNA is compared to normal DNA...
16 February 2015 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
The order in which mutations occur in a cell can determine the clinical outcome of certain cancers, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine...
10 February 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Whole genome testing has been used to guide tailored treatment against advanced breast cancer in a group of 43 patients. The scientists behind the study say their research is a step on the path towards 'personalised medicine' where individual genetic makeup informs treatment choice...
21 October 2013 - by Dr Naqash Raja 
Common gene mutations link 12 cancer types such as blood, colon and kidney, research from Washington University School of Medicine, USA, has shown...
19 August 2013 - by Dr Sarah Spain 
A team of researchers has comprehensively charted the genetic 'signatures' of processes that drive tumour development for the first time...
28 May 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
A genetic testing programme that will look for nearly 100 cancer risk genes has been launched, in the hope that genetic tests will become routine for cancer patients across the UK....
29 October 2012 - by Rivka Marks-Maran 
Thousands of genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer have been identified in an international study...
1 October 2012 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
Scientists have found molecular similarities between a subtype of breast cancer and a hard-to-treat form of ovarian cancer...
23 July 2012 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
The genetic mutations underlying colon and rectal cancer are so similar that these cancers should be classified as one disease, a study suggests. Researchers analysed over 200 tumour samples and also identified genes that could serve as targets for future drug treatments...
6 June 2012 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A wealth of whole genome data – or the entire genetic codes – from children with cancer has been released by scientists in the US. The researchers claim the database more than doubles the volume of highly detailed, whole genome data available worldwide...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.