The genetic map of tumors is ready, which sheds new light on how diseased cells are born, grow and change over time: in particular, thanks to an innovative technique, it has made it possible to discover that various genetic mutations typical of cancer are already present in many cells believed to be healthy.
The study, published in the journal Nature and led by the University of Oxford and the Royal Technological Institute (KTH) of Stockholm, could help to make increasingly early diagnoses and also to decide which region of the tumor to target treatments to increase its effectiveness.
Current techniques for studying the genetics of cells within tumors involve taking a sample in order to perform a DNA analysis.
The weakness of this method is that it only provides a partial snapshot of the tumor under consideration.
To overcome the problem, the researchers used a new technique that allows them to see what genetic changes occur within cells without breaking the tissue they want to examine.
By analyzing over 150 thousand regions from cancers of the prostate, breast, skin and even lymph nodes and brain, the authors of the study developed an algorithm that is able to trace groups of cells with similar genetic changes, obtaining a real map genetics of tumors.
“We have never had this level of resolution available before, and this new approach has revealed some surprising results,” comments Alastair Lamb of the University of Oxford, co-author of the study.
“For example, we found that many mutations that we thought were linked specifically to cancer are actually already present in benign tissue.
This has great implications for diagnosis - Lamb adds - and also potentially for deciding which parts of the cancer need to be treated ”.
ARTICLE LINK: 10.1038 / s41586-022-05023-2