New international research investigates the cancer genome
1300 researchers have worked for ten years to explore the entire cancer genome. Their results suggest that some cancers could be predicted through DNA mutations that occur many years before the cancers make patients ill.
The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Consortium involved researchers from 37 countries who examined 47 million genetic changes in over 2,500 tumours involving 38 types of cancer. The genomes, or complete sets of DNA, including all of their genes, were compared with those of healthy cells from the same people. The researchers identified a number of “driver mutations” or errors that were shared between tumours, and found that on average cancers contain between 4 and 5 mutations that affect their growth. However a small number of tumours seemed not to have driver mutations. The scientists were also able to show that more than 20% of the mutation had occurred several years before the cancers were found. More work is now needed to establish which mutations will go on to become cancers.