Cancer 'prints' detailed
Researchers have compiled a new list of the fingerprints of damage that cancer causes to DNA.
Many known causes of cancer, such as UV light and tobacco smoking, leave a specific fingerprint of damage in the DNA. Now, an international team has put together the most detailed list of these genetic fingerprints to date, providing clues as to how each cancer develops.
The study was produced as part of a global Pan-Cancer Project, which is helping understand the causes of cancer, informing prevention strategies, and help signpost new directions for cancer diagnosis and treatments.
The collaboration involving more than 1,300 scientists and clinicians from 37 countries analysed more than 2,600 genomes of 38 different tumour types.
Cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of a cell, allowing it to divide uncontrollably. Many known causes of cancer, such as UV light and tobacco smoking, leave a specific mutational fingerprint of damage in the DNA.
The global study of these fingerprints identified new mutational signatures that had not been seen before, from single letter ‘typo’ mutations, to slightly larger insertions and deletions of genetic code.
The result is the largest database of reference mutational signatures ever. Only about half of all the mutational signatures have known causes, however this resource can now be used to help find more of these causes and better understand cancer development.