Researchers from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, have undertaken the largest ever study to sequence the whole genomes of breast cancer. In this process they have uncovered 5 new genes related to breast cancer and 13 new mutational signatures that influence tumour development.
The findings could lead to personalised treatment for breast cancer patients depending on their genetic makeup. Researchers during their study analysed 560 breast cancer genomes; 556 from women and 4 from men. The results of the study show what genetic variations exist in the disease and where they occur in the genome. It was also revealed that breast cancer genomes are highly individual. Researchers stated that each person’s cancer genome is a historical account of the genetic changes that they have acquired throughout life. Human DNA constantly gets damaged because of factors such as environment and wear and tear occurring in the cell.
These changes form patterns or mutational signatures that can give us clues about the causes of cancer. Researchers were looking for mutations that encourage cancers to grow wherein they found that women who carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes had high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. These cancer genomes were highly distinctive. The findings could be used to classify patients more accurately for treatment, researchers noted. “All cancers are due to mutations that occur in all of us in the DNA of our cells during the course of our lifetimes. Finding these mutations is crucial to understanding the causes of cancer and to developing improved therapies,” said Mike Stratton from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.