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Cancer 'Signatures' Reveal Origins Of Disease
The origins of many of the most common types of cancer have been revealed by a group of British scientists.
The Cambridgeshire-based team discovered the genetic 'signatures' of more than 20 processes that mutate DNA and in turn lead to the disease.
It is hoped that by better understanding the underlying processes, researchers will be able to find new ways to prevent and treat cancers.
"We can start to use the overwhelming amounts of information buried deep in the DNA of cancers to our advantage in terms of understanding how and why cancers arise," said Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, a senior author of the research, which was published in the journal Nature.
"Our map of the events that cause the majority of cancers in humans is an important step to discovering the processes that drive cancer formation."
All cancers are caused by DNA mutations and although scientists have a good understanding of the consequences of these changes, they have only a basic knowledge of the biological processes behind them.
Each of the 30 cancer types tested was found to contain two or more genetic signatures, highlighting just how complex the disease is.
Among the signatures discovered during the research was one clearly linked to ageing.
It was more common in older patients and present in 25 of the cancers, suggesting age is one of the biggest risk factors in developing the disease.
Two other patterns were linked to enzymes known as APBECs, which have the power to 'edit' DNA and can be activated by viruses, pointing to the potential role infection plays.
Another signature, caused by mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, was also found in ovarian and pancreatic cancers.
The research was carried out at the Wellcome Trust's Sanger Institute laboratories in Hinxton.
It analysed more than 7,000 genomes, or genetic codes, of cancers collected from patients from around the world.