British scientists genetic breakthrough brings new hopes for cancer treatment

by Peter Barker ,  SCI & Tech | 2009-12-18

The breakthrough could mean a revolution in cancer treatment with the possibility that each cancer patient's treatment could be personalized, with the pattern of mutations being used to tailor an individual treatment for each person.

The feat, the comprehensive analysis of two cancer genomes (the hereditary information which is encoded in DNA), is a world first and is a revolutionary breakthrough.

All cancers are caused by mutations in the DNA of cancer cells which are acquired during a person's lifetime. The studies, of a malignant melanoma and a lung cancer, reveal for the first time essentially all the mutations in the genomes of two cancers.

Lung cancer causes around 1 million deaths worldwide each year: almost all are associated with smoking. The number of mutations found suggest that a typical smoker would acquire one mutation for every 15 cigarettes smoked. Although malignant melanoma comprises only 3 percent of skin cancer cases, it is the cause of three out of four skin cancer deaths. The melanoma genome contained more than 30,000 mutations that carried a record of how and when they occurred during the patient's life.

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