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Landmark study set to transform cancer treatment

Published on 06/02/20 at 12:05pm

Over a thousand scientists have built the most detailed picture of cancer ever in a landmark study.

Their research was published in the journal Nature, and was carried out by the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Consortium. They analyzed the genetic code of 2,658 cancers.

The study said that cancer was like a 100,000-piece jigsaw and until this study 99% of the pieces were missing. It has taken teams in 37 countries more than a decade to figure out.

Overall the work compiles 22 scientific journals that show that cancer is massively complex, with thousands of different combinations of mutations able to cause cancer.

The research project found that people’s cancers contain between four and five fundamental mutations that drive a cancer’s growth. These can be targetted with treatment.

Dr Peter Campbell, from the Wellcome Sanger Institue, said: “Ultimately, what we want to do is to use these technologies to identify treatments that are tailored to each individual patient.”

5% of cancers appear to have no driver mutations, so more research has to be done to find out how to treat these better. Scientists also developed a way of carbon dating mutations, with many occurring decades before cancer is found.

Dr Peter Van Loo, from the Francis Crick Institute, said: “We’ve developed first timelines of genetic mutations across the spectrum of cancer types. Unlocking these patterns means it should now be possible to develop new diagnostic tests, that pick up signs of cancer much earlier.”

Conor Kavanagh


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