Scientists have mapped the genetic aberrations underlying lung cancer and discovered a gene that plays a critical role in spreading the deadly disease, according to a study published online by the British journal ‘Nature’. The massive DNA study, involving dozens of research centres worldwide, sheds important light on the biological basis of lung cancer and will help shape new strategies for treatment, the authors said.
“This view of the lung cancer genome is unprecedented, both in its breadth and depth,” said Mathew Meyerson of Harvard and MIT, who led the research. “It lays an essential foundation, and has already pinpointed an important gene that controls the growth of lung cells.” Each year around 1.3 million people die from lung cancer, making it the most lethal form of the disease, according to the World Health Organization. The new study focuses on lung adenocarcinoma, which accounts for just under a third of all lung cancer cases.
Part of the international Tumour Sequencing Project, the study looked for abnormalities in the DNA of more than 500 tumours from lung cancer patients. Most human cancers stem mainly from DNA changes that accumulate in cells through a person’s life, but the nature of these changes—and their consequences—has remained largely unknown.
The scientists used cutting-edge technologies to scan the human genome for markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms that highlight missing or duplicate sections of genetic code.