Are we getting closer to being able to prevent cancer?
Cancer is caused by genetic mutations. However, the causes and biological processes that lead to these mutations have been somewhat of a mystery. Now, the genetic cause of tumor development in common cancers is becoming evident. This is helping to identify the biological processes that damages the DNA originally and causes cancer.
Researchers at University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Biosciences analyzed over 7,000 tumors to identify 21 unique mutational signatures and associated cancer types. These mutations appear to drive tumor growth in 30 of the most common cancers seen today.
The Institute found, for example, that the APOBEC enzyme family, which can be activated in response to viruses, is linked to mutations in over 15 cancer types. In addition, all cancers studied had two or more signature mutations, indicating a combination of processes contributing to cancer development. Childhood cancers appeared to have the least number of mutations, while cancers caused by carcinogenic exposure had the highest number of mutations.
As scientists begin to understand the biological processes occurring over time to create these mutational signatures, these findings could have significant implications for early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer.