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Year 2009

Scientists decode deadly cancers

Times of India
18 December 2009

Researchers Map DNA Mutations That Lead to Skin And Lung Cancers
British scientists have cracked the genetic code of two of the most deadly cancers, a development described as a “transforming moment” in the effort to find a cure for the disease, which kills seven million people worldwide annually.

Researchers at Cambridge University mapped the DNA mutations that lead to skin and lung cancers. The complete genetic codes of the two human cancers have been mapped for the first time, setting the stage for a medical revolution in which every tumour can be targeted with personalised therapy.

“What you are seeing today is going to transform the way that we see cancer. This is a really fundamental moment in the history of cancer research,” said Professor Mike Stratton, who carried out the studies.

Scientists predict that by about 2020, all cancer patients could have their tumours analysed to find the genetic defects that drive them. This information would then be used to select the treatments most likely to work,The Times newspaper reported.

The Cambridge team, working with US academics, calculated that if the cancer takes an average of 50 years to develop, every 15 cigarettes bring a smoker one mutation closer to the disease. The process could happen much more quickly, however, as no one can currently predict when the key “driver” mutations will occur.

Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a world leading research centre in Cambridge said: “We have never seen cancer unveiled in this form before. It is like doing an archaeological excavation. We have got traces of all these processes from years before the cancer arose.”

“I can envisage a time a decade or more hence when these catalogues will become routine, and influential in selecting treatment for that individual. That’s what we’re expecting – every cancer patient will have one of these charts,” he was quoted as saying by the British daily. PTI

They compared the DNA sequence of tumour tissues with healthy ones to identify all changes (mutations) that occur in cells of two deadly cancers – melanoma skin and lung.

  • The lung tumour carried more than 23,000 mutations and the melanoma had more than 33,000
  • A smoker develops one mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked
  • Scientists now have to track specific mutations that lead to cancer. This would help in producing drugs to suppress these mutations
  • By about 2020, cancer patients could have their tumours analysed to find the genetic defects that drive them
Lung cancer is set to top cancer list with 51,194 new cases annually by 2020 Fresh cases of cancer annually among men will increase from 4.47L in 2008 to 5.34 lakh by 2020.

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