Researchers decoded genetic evolution of a breast cancer tumour

Canadian researchers have decoded all of the three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a metastatic lobular breast cancer tumor, a type of breast cancer which accounts for about 10 per cent of all breast cancers.

The study will be published October 8th as the cover story in the prestigious international science journal Nature.

Researchers have found all of the mutations, or “spelling” mistakes that caused the cancer to spread. The study would help unlock the secrets of how cancer begins and spreads, thus pointing the way to the development of new breast cancer treatment targets and therapies.

“One in nine women is expected to develop breast cancer, and breast cancer accounts for 29 per cent of all cancer diagnoses for B.C. women,” said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon.

Dr. Samuel Aparicio, head of the breast cancer research program at the BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) said “This is a watershed event in our ability to understand the causes of breast cancer and to develop personalized medicines for our patients. The number of doors that can now be opened to future research is considerable.”

Partnering with the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, Dr. Aparicio’s team used the latest in next-generation DNA sequencing technology to study the evolution of a single patient’s lobular breast cancer tumor over a nine-year interval. They found 32 mutations in the metastatic cancer tumor and then looked to see how many of those same spelling mistakes were present in the original tumor. The result was surprising – only five of the 32 could have been present in all of the cells of the primary tumor, thus fingering them as the criminals that caused the disease to get started in the first place. These five mutations were previously unknown to researchers as playing a role in cancer.

The discovery is not only a major scientific milestone for the BC Cancer Agency, an acknowledged world leader in cancer research care, but also a significant testimony to the power of philanthropy invested in science to fuel cancer research and drive new discoveries.

The BC Cancer Agency is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency throughout B.C.

Source: BC Cancer Foundation, Canada



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