Scientists have heralded a “breakthrough” in cancer treatment after deciphering the genetic code of thousands of tumours providing a road map for more effective treatment and new drug development.
A groundbreaking international collaboration has shown how tumours in different parts of the body, which have previously been treated as separate diseases, have molecular similarities which could render them vulnerable to drugs already on the market.
The research redefines cancer types beyond terms such as breast and bowel, which are descriptions only of where the cancer first arose. Instead, the newly uncovered molecular makeup of cancers could lead to “drastic changes” in how the best drugs for patients are chosen. Doctors told The Independent it could change the “traditional” method of treatment based on the location of tumours and allow clinical trials to “identify patients most likely to benefit” from experimental drugs.
The Cancer Genome Atlas is the largest project of its kind and contains the genetic information for every cell of tumours taken from more than 11,000 patients, across 33 different types of cancer.
Comparing this new data with information on treatments licensed for use in other cancers, the authors showed that 50 per cent of these 11,000 tumours were had potentially effective treatments already out there.
The project also traced these tumours back to mutations in 300 different genes, including well studied types like the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, where mutations significantly increase the risk of breast cancer. It also found that around 8 per cent of the cancer-causing mutations were inherited from parental DNA, rather than mutations caused by things like sun damage or smoking... read more: