Mutations Needed for Cancer To Emerge

Hannah Nichols is giving us more information on the mutations needed for cancer to emerge that the scientists have uncovered.  The article has been fact checked by Jasmin Collier.

There are somewhere between one and 10 driver mutations required for cancer to develop.  This information is according to a team from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.  More than 7,500 tumors across 29 cancers were studied by the researchers.

Their findings have been published in the journal Cell that reveals the number of mutations required to drive cancer significantly, depending upon the type of cancer.  Dr. Peter Campbell was the lead author with first author Dr. Inigo Martincorena and co-author Prof. Michael Stratton, all from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom.  This is a long-standing question in research that has been debated since the 1950s.

The answer is a small handful.  On the average about 4 mutations per patient is needed on average to drive liver cancers, where colorectal cancers usually require 10 or so driver mutations.  They identified a strategy to distinguish the genes that are involved in cancer evolution and the number of mutations in those genes that play a role in causing cancer.

The researchers applied an evolutionary perspective to quantify the process in their analysis of 7,664 tumors across 29 types of cancer.  They catalogued the primary genes that were involved in these 29 types of cancer.  They also discovered new genes associated with cancer and tried to clarify the completeness of the current list of cancer genes.

Dr. Martincorena says they revealed that around half of these key mutations occur in genes that are not yet identified as cancer genes.  There are many more genes yet to be discovered and they will need to bring together larger numbers of cancers studied by DNA sequencing to find these elusive genes.

The techniques in this study could be used to improve personalized cancer care in the future.  They know now that hundreds of genes, when mutated, drive cancer.  Many of the driver genes have not yet been identified and will be the target for additional research.  This will provide the foundation for the discovery and use of targeted therapies that treat the disease.

Dr Fredda Branyon