New Cancer Gene Discovered

Local researchers have found a new genetic code in tumor samples that gives hope for future treatment.

dna image via shutterstock

dna image via shutterstock

A team of researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute, a MIT/Harvard collaboration, have conducted a study of almost 5,000 cancerous tumor samples and have identified more than 140 genetic codes that may be undiscovered cancer genes.

The study, published in the October issue of Nature Genetics, was part of an ongoing research project attempting to understand the genetic changes that cause the rapid growth of metastasizing cancer cells. Researchers believe that the scrambled genetic codes that they’ve discovered could help future scientists better understand how to control, and potentially prevent, cancer.

Normal, noncancerous cells contain two copies of 20,000 genes. Cancerous cells have areas within these 20,000 genes where a gene has more than one copy or none at all, causing abnormalities. The researchers of the study worked to identify where and how these abnormal gene patterns occurred in cancer cells.

The study looked closely at 4,934 cancer cells of 11 different types, and in addition to discovering gene abnormalities, researchers also found that cancer cells undergo gene duplications more often than noncancerous cells. This suggested that there was undiscovered cancer genes and possibly genes to suppress tumors in these duplications.

Of the 140 areas of duplicated cancerous genes the researchers discovered, only 35 of them contained genes linked to known cancer genes and tumor suppressor genes that have been previously linked to cancer.

Dr. Rameen Beroukhim, senior author of the study and Harvard Medical School assistant professor, said last week:

“There is a lot left to discover in the cancer genome. These regions provide the research community a starting point to evaluate possible novel oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes.”

Once scientists understand these abnormalities in cancerous genes and further study the newly discovered cancerous and tumor suppressor genes, diagnostic tools and treatments can be developed to help more effectively catch and treat cancer.