This new mapping of cancers and their mutations could turn medicine upside down


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An international scientific project is trying to identify mutations in 38 different cancers. The results obtained could constitute an important breakthrough for medicine, as reported in the magazine Sciences et Avenir.

Analyzing more than 2,600 genomes from 38 different types of tumors, this has been done as part of the Pan-Cancer Project cancer research. The results of this study should help to better understand the extreme variety of tumors, and to learn from them with a view to their prevention and treatment, explains the monthly Science et Avenir.

“Thanks to the knowledge we have acquired on the origins and evolution of tumors, we can develop new tools and therapies to detect cancer earlier, develop more targeted therapies and treat patients more successfully,” says Lincoln. Stein, member of the project steering committee, in a statement from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

The project mobilized 1,300 researchers from 37 different countries. The results of the study are the subject of 23 publications in the journal Nature.

Perpetual mutations in cancer cells

An important part of the study is about mutations in cancer cells. Researchers have found a large variation in the number of mutations in a given cancer, especially in the case of lung cancer. Conversely, cancers in different parts of the body are sometimes much more similar than previously thought.

“The whole Pan-Cancer work helps to respond to a long-standing medical difficulty: why can two patients with what seems to be the same cancer respond differently to the same drug?”, Explains Peter Campbell, member of the steering committee of the project in this release.

A breakthrough for cancer research

In the long term, the results will make it possible to better identify cancers that are difficult to diagnose, and to offer more targeted treatments, based on the analysis of mutations specific to each case, it is indicated in Science and Avenir.

“If we can understand what causes the accumulation of mutations, the proliferation of certain clones at the expense of others, what lifestyles to adopt to keep this balance, then we can think of ways to intervene upstream, in order to prevent or slow the emergence of intractable cancers, ā€¯concludes Peter Campbell.


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