Double dose of genes can trigger poor cancer survival

January 23, 2014, Cancer Research UK
Credit: Cancer Research UK

(Medical Xpress)—Cancer Research UK scientists have shown that accidental DNA doubling in bowel cancer cells could predict which patients have potentially poor survival and help doctors plan their treatment, according to research published in Cancer Discovery this week.

In a two year study the team at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute grew normal bowel cells with just one set of genes, alongside cancer cells containing exactly the same genetic information – but doubled. The doubling of a cell's entire gene set - the genome - happens for many reasons, for example when a cell fails to divide properly in two after duplicating its DNA.

The team found that cancer cells with doubled genomes were highly unstable and rapidly accumulated further genetic damage. Cancer genome doubling enables tumours to evolve rapidly and develop diversity. In turn this diversity is a contributing factor to cancer drug resistance.

The scientists also examined data from 500 patients which showed a link between cancer genome doubling and poor survival.

Study author, Professor Charlie Swanton at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, said: "We've closely watched cancer cells growing in the laboratory for over two years to spot the ways that tumours can change over time.

"Interestingly we've seen that genome doubling in cells can encourage haphazard DNA development making the cells extremely unstable and the tumours very genetically diverse. We know that patients do worse if they have tumours with a lot of cell instability – one reason being they become resistant to many types of targeted treatment.

"Detecting genome doubling in cells could help predict those patients with early stage bowel cancer at higher risk of spreading– a time when important decisions about treatment need to be taken to limit the risk of disease coming back."

Around 40,700 people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and there are around 15,700 deaths each year from the disease.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said: "We've seen dramatic progress in bowel cancer research which has led to survival rates doubling over the last 40 years, but there is much more to be done. There's an urgent need to find new treatments for patients whose cancers have become resistant to treatment.

"Research to understand why become genetically unstable, leading to poor survival, is vital if we are to find more effective treatments and identify targets for new therapies."

Explore further: New type of bowel cancer discovered

More information: Whole genome doubling propagates chromosomal instability and accelerates cancer genome evolution. Dewhurst and McGranahan et al. Cancer Discovery.

Related Stories

New type of bowel cancer discovered

April 15, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A unique sub-type of bowel cancer has been discovered which has a worse outcome than other types of colon cancer and is resistant to certain targeted treatments, according to research published today in ...

Experimental drugs for breast cancer could treat lung cancer too

August 13, 2013
Cancer Research UK -funded scientists have discovered that experimental drugs first developed for breast and ovarian cancer could be used to treat the most common type of lung cancer, reveals research published in Oncogene ...

Family history of bowel cancer increases odds of survival

March 20, 2013
A new study that combines genetic information on bowel cancer with NHS patient outcome data has found a link between family history of the disease and a better chance of survival, published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Bowel cancers reshuffle their genetic pack to cheat treatment

February 27, 2013
Bowel cancer cells missing one of three genes can rapidly reshuffle their genetic 'pack of cards' – the chromosomes that hold the cell's genetic information. This reshuffling has been previously shown to render tumours ...

New type of molecular switch could turn up the volume on bowel cancer treatment

November 5, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A new type of molecular switch can boost common chemotherapy drugs to destroy bowel cancer cells, according to research presented today (Monday) at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

New biomarker for bowel cancer could help predict if disease will spread

July 24, 2013
Scientists have identified a protein that could play a crucial role in recognising whether bowel cancer patients need chemotherapy as there is a high risk of their bowel cancer spreading, according to a new study1 published ...

Recommended for you

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

Cancer patients who tell their life story find more peace, less depression

January 22, 2018
Fifteen years ago, University of Wisconsin–Madison researcher Meg Wise began interviewing cancer patients nearing the end of life about how they were living with their diagnosis. She was surprised to find that many asked ...

Workouts may boost life span after breast cancer

January 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—Longer survival after breast cancer may be as simple as staying fit, new research shows.

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

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.