Researchers discover genes involved in colorectal cancer

November 6, 2011

A jumping gene with the fairy tale name "Sleeping Beauty" has helped to unlock vital clues for researchers investigating the genetics of colorectal cancer.

A study published today used the Sleeping Beauty transposon system to profile the repertoire of genes that can drive colorectal , identifying many more than previously thought. Around one third of these genes are mutated in , which provides strong evidence that they are driver mutations in human tumours.

The collaborative project funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust was led by Dr David Adams from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and Dr Douglas Winton, of the Cancer Research-UK Cambridge Research Institute.

"These findings, when combined with mutation data from human colon cancers, will drive forward our understanding of the processes that lead to colorectal cancer," says Dr Adams, senior author from the Sanger Institute. "They demonstrate how many genes can contribute to this cancer and how these genes work together in the development of this disease".

The Sleeping Beauty transposon system induces at random, identifying and tagging candidate cancer genes, the drivers that cause colorectal cancer. This system has become critical in uncovering the that cause cancer, and, in this study, the team identify more than 200 genes that can be disrupted in human .

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer; just under 40,000 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK in 2008 – around 110 people every day – a figure which has shown little improvement over the last decade.

"Our research provides a rich source of candidate genes that represent potential diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic targets, and defines the breadth of genes that can contribute to cancer of the intestine," says Dr Winton, senior author from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute. "It is becoming increasingly clear that cancers are driven by mutations in disparate collections of genes and it is essential that we tease apart the important changes."

Current thinking is that perhaps around 50 major drivers are mutated in any one cancer cell, but the number and identity of all of the cancer drivers, and how many drivers are found in each type of cancer, is largely unknown. By performing screens for cancer genes in the mouse and by then comparing them to data from human tumours the team identified a rich catalogue of new candidate genes helping to refine the genes that genetic pathways that drive bowel cancer development.

"At its heart, cancer is a disease driven by faulty ," says Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK. "Research suggests that each cancer cell has a number of 'driver' faults that make them grow out of control, as well as 'passenger' faults that they pick up as the disease develops. This technique is helping us to tease out the key drivers of , laying the foundations for more effective, targeted treatments for the disease in the future."

The research complements studies by The Cancer Genome Atlas and the International Cancer Genome Consortium, which are cataloguing the mutations responsible for cancer development using next generation DNA sequencing.

Explore further: Research reveals that significantly more genetic mutations lead to colon cancer

More information: Nature Genetics doi: 10.1038/ng.990

Related Stories

Research reveals that significantly more genetic mutations lead to colon cancer

July 18, 2011
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center say there are at least 70 genetic mutations involved in the formation of colon cancer, far more than scientists previously thought.

Recommended for you

Genome analysis with near-complete privacy possible, say researchers

August 17, 2017
It is now possible to scour complete human genomes for the presence of disease-associated genes without revealing any genetic information not directly associated with the inquiry, say Stanford University researchers.

Science Says: DNA test results may not change health habits

August 17, 2017
If you learned your DNA made you more susceptible to getting a disease, wouldn't you work to stay healthy?

Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system

August 16, 2017
It is widely recognized that people respond differently to infections. This can partially be explained by genetics, shows a new study published today in Nature Communications by an international collaboration of researchers ...

Phenotype varies for presumed pathogenic variants in KCNB1

August 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—De novo KCNB1 missense and loss-of-function variants are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, with or without seizures, according to a study published online Aug. 14 in JAMA Neurology.

Active non-coding DNA might help pinpoint genetic risk for psychiatric disorders

August 16, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have demonstrated a new method of analyzing non-coding regions of DNA in neurons, which may help to pinpoint which genetic variants are most important to the development of schizophrenia and ...

Evolved masculine and feminine behaviors can be inherited from social environment

August 15, 2017
The different ways men and women behave, passed down from generation to generation, can be inherited from our social environment - not just from genes, experts have suggested.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.