Page URL:

The Cancer Genome Atlas pinpoints 127 mutations driving cancer growth

21 October 2013
Appeared in BioNews 727

Common gene mutations link 12 cancer types such as blood, colon and kidney, research from Washington University School of Medicine, USA, has shown.

The project, which forms part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) effort, analysed more than 3,000 tumour samples from a collection of cancers including breast, lung, kidney and ovary and identified {mutations in 127 genes as the drivers of the disease.

Most tumours were observed to be the result of two to six genetic mutations. 'While cells in the body continually accumulate new mutations over the years, it only takes a few mutations in key driver genes to transform a healthy cell into a cancer cell', explained senior scientist Dr Li Ding.

This study strengthens the idea that cancers can be classified by their molecular characteristics rather than their location in the body (as reported in BioNews 724). For example, the study found that a particular gene mutation present in 25 percent of leukaemia cases was also found in other tumour types, including cancers of the rectum, head and neck, and lung.

A link between gene mutation and predicted outcome for the patient was also identified. Mutations in the TP53 gene were associated with a poor prognosis in 42 percent of samples including kidney cancer and acute myeloid leukaemia. In contrast, mutations in the BRCA2 gene were linked with improved survival in ovarian cancer.

'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', envisages Dr Ding. 'This is just the beginning'.

This research, along with other TCGA studies, raises the hope of developing more effective diagnostic tools and treatments.

Dr Ding added: 'Because we now know, for example, that genes mutated in leukemia also can be altered in breast cancer and that genetic errors in lung cancer also can show up in colon and rectal cancer, we think one inclusive diagnostic test that includes all cancer genes would be ideal. This would provide a more complete picture of what's going on in a tumour, and that information could be used to make decisions about treatment'.

The report was published in the journal Nature.

Deadly Cancers Driven by Relatively Few Mutations, Study Finds
Bloomberg Businessweek |  16 October 2013
DNA analysis uncovers genetic errors behind 12 major cancers
CNET |  16 October 2013
Genetic errors identified in 12 major cancer types
EurekAlert! (press release) |  16 October 2013
Mutational landscape and significance across 12 major cancer types
Nature |  17 October 2013
Same Gene Mutations Tied to 12 Cancers
Wall Street Journal |  16 October 2013
23 November 2020 - by Dr George Janes 
A new algorithm has exploited epigenetic and genetic cancer data to enable the discovery of novel cancer driver genes...
27 August 2019 - by Emma Laycock 
Scientists have developed a blood test that may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than other methods...
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...
28 November 2016 - by Anna Leida 
Having two copies of the X chromosome may help explain why females get cancer less often than males, according to new research...
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...
30 September 2013 - by Daryl Ramai 
Molecular similarities among different tumour types have been identified, revealing new ways to classify cancer...
7 May 2013 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
Genetic analysis of tumours provides the key to treating them effectively, according to two studies carried out by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)....
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...
12 December 2011 - by Mehmet Fidanboylu 
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US has demonstrated its intent to make personalised medicine a reality by outlining plans for projects set to cost almost half a billion US dollars...
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.