Scientists have spent much time and energy mapping the many DNA misspellings that can transform healthy cells into cancerous ones. But recently it has become increasingly clear that changes to the DNA sequence itself are not the only culprits. Cancer can also be driven by epigenetic changes to DNA—modifications to chemical marks on the genome don’t alter the sequence of the DNA molecule, but act to influence gene activity. A prime example of this can been seen in glioblastoma, a rare and deadly form of brain cancer that strikes about 12,000 Americans each year.
In fact, an NIH-funded research team recently published in Nature Communications the most complete portrait to date of the epigenetic patterns characteristic of the glioblastoma genome . Among their findings were patterns associated with how long patients survived after the cancer was detected. While far more research is needed, the findings highlight the potential of epigenetic information to help doctors devise more precise ways of diagnosing, treating, and perhaps even preventing glioblastoma and many other forms of cancer.
Tags: 5-hmC, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5-mC, 5-methylcytosine, brain, brain cancer, cancer, cancer epigenetics, cancer epigenome, epigenetics, glioblastoma, glioblastoma multiforme, oncology, precision oncology, The Cancer Genome Atlas
Cancer is a disease of the genome. It arises when genes involved in promoting or suppressing cell growth sustain mutations that disturb the normal stop and go signals. There are more than 100 different types of cancer, most of which derive their names and current treatment based on their tissue of origin—breast, colon, or brain, for example. But because of advances in DNA sequencing and analysis, that soon may be about to change.
Using data generated through The Cancer Genome Atlas, NIH-funded researchers recently compared the genomic fingerprints of tumor samples from nearly 3,300 patients with 12 types of cancer: acute myeloid leukemia, bladder, brain (glioblastoma multiforme), breast, colon, endometrial, head and neck, kidney, lung (adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), ovarian, and rectal. Confirming but greatly extending what smaller studies have shown, the researchers discovered that even when cancers originate from vastly different tissues, they can show similar features at the DNA level
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Tags: acute myeloid leukemia, adenocarcinoma, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cancer, chemotherapy, colon cancer, DNA sequencing, endometrial cancer, gene mutations, genome, genomic fingerprint, glioblastoma multiforme, head and neck cancer, kidney cancer, National Institutes of Health, NIH, ovarian cancer, Pan-Cancer project, personalized medicine, precision medicine, rectal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, TCGA, The Cancer Genome Atlas, therapeutic development, treatment, tumor