Cancer Breakthrough: Researchers A Lot Closer To Learning What Causes It

Aric Mitchell

A cancer breakthrough has been discovered by a team of international researchers, according to a Wednesday report from the BBC.

The findings brought scientists much closer to determining the causes for nearly all types of cancer, thus paving the way for more effective forms of treatment and prevention.

The team, led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, charted 21 major mutations behind tumors caused by 30 of the most common forms of cancer.

In doing so, they discovered these mutations, which they referred to as "graffiti signatures," were left behind in 97 percent of the cases.

(Examples of causes for these mutations include smoking and UV damage.)

The point of the study behind this cancer breakthrough was to identify these causes, 12 of which remain a mystery.

What scientists do know is that smoking, UV damage, and the rest of these mutations alter the DNA making it susceptible to cancer growth, thus leaving behind their graffiti signatures.

Researchers checked for this graffiti in 7,042 samples and found that in all but three percent, the signatures belonged to one of the 21 mutations.

In comments to the BBC, Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, said he was "very excited."

"Hidden within the cancer genome are these patterns, these signatures, which tell us what is actually causing cancer in the first place -- that's a major insight to have. It is quite a significant achievement for cancer research, this is quite profound. It's taking us into areas of unknown that we didn't know existed before. I think this is a major milestone," Stratton said.

A bit more from Sanger here:

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