A team of researchers with members affiliated with multiple institutions in The Netherlands and Australia has conducted the largest-ever whole-genome study of metastatic solid tumors. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their study and the benefits it has already provided. Jillian Wise and Michael Lawrence with the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Department of Pathology have published a News & Views piece describing the work by the team in the same journal issue.
When people develop breast cancer or skin cancer, death isn’t caused by what it does to the originating organs—patients die because cancer cells from the original tumor break away and travel to other more vital parts of the body, such as the lungs or the brain, where they grow into new tumors. The process is referred to as metastasis, and it is the area of cancer research that gets the most study, precisely because it is so deadly. To advance that work, the team with this new effort has conducted the largest of its kind whole-genome study of metastatic solid tumors and cataloged what they found. They also sequenced blood cells from the same patients that donated the tumors as a means of comparison. The researchers explain that the exercise was needed because it has become clear that metastatic tumor cells undergo genetic changes as they travel through the body. By looking at the genomes of the same types of cancers traveling in different patients, medical researchers can spot trends, which in turn could lead to new treatment therapies.
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