Scientists Unlock the Genetic Codes of Skin and Lung Cancer
By Brandie Umar - Executive Director of Content | September 29th, 2011
Discovering how genetics cause cancer could be the key to developing preventative treatment for three more than 200 types of cancer diagnosed yearly. Research by the Wellcome Trust has identified the genetic coding of two of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, skin cancer and lung cancer. Professor Mike Stratton, a member of the research team called the development a 'fundamental moment in cancer research'.
Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of two of the most common types of cancer, skin cancer and lung cancer; a move they say could revolutionize cancer care.
Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumors far earlier than ever before, they will also yield new drug targets, said the Wellcome Trust team.
Scientists around the globe are now working to catalog all of the genes that falter in many types of human cancer.
The International Cancer Genome Consortium scientists from the 10 countries involved said in 2009 that it would take them at least five years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete this mammoth task.
But once they have done this, patients will surely reap the benefits.
Professor Michael Stratton, who is the UK leader, said, "These catalogs are going to change the way we think about individual cancers. By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments. We can envision a time when following the removal of a cancer, cataloging it will become routine."
It might even be possible to develop MoT-style blood tests for healthy adults to check for telltale DNA patterns indicative of cancer.
The scientists found the DNA code for melanoma contained more than 30,000 errors almost entirely caused by too much sun exposure.
The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure. From this, the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke. Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.
Wellcome Trust researcher Dr Peter Campbell, who conducted this research, which was published in the journal Nature said, "It's like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time the mutations will land in innocent parts of the genome, but some will hit the right targets for cancer."
By quitting smoking, people could reduce their cancer risk back down to "normal" with time, he said. The suspicion is lung cells containing mutations are eventually replaced with new ones free of genetic errors.
By studying the cancer catalogs in detail, the scientists say it should be possible to find exactly which lifestyle and environmental factors trigger different tumors.
Treatment and Prevention
Tom Haswell, who was successfully treated 15 years ago for lung cancer, believes the research will benefit the next generation:
"For future patients I think it's tremendous news because hopefully treatments can be targeted to their particular genome mutations, hopefully...reducing some of the side effects we get".
Cancer experts from all over the globe have applauded the work.
The Institute of Cancer Research stated, "This is the first time that a complete cancer genome has been sequenced and similar insights into other cancer genomes are likely to follow. As more cancer genomes are revealed by this technique, we will gain a greater understanding of how cancer is caused and develops, improving our ability to prevent, treat and cure cancer."
Professor Carlos Caldas, from Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute called the research "groundbreaking".
He told BBC, "Like molecular archaeologists, these researchers have dug through layers of genetic information to uncover the history of these patients' disease. What is so new in this study is the researchers have been able to link particular mutations to their cause. The hope and excitement for the future is that we will eventually have detailed picture of how different cancers develop, and ultimately how better to treat and prevent them."
This article was written by the medical research team at WhereismyDoctor.com
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