Satellite Banner
RNAi
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Cancer Leaves a Common Fingerprint on DNA

Published: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Chemical alterations to genes appear key to tumor development.

Regardless of their stage or type, cancers appear to share a telltale signature of widespread changes to the so-called epigenome, according to a team of researchers. In a study of a broad variety of cancers, published online in Genome Medicine on Aug. 26, the investigators say they have found widespread and distinctive changes to chemical marks known as methyl groups attached to DNA. Those marks help govern whether genes are turned “on” or “off,” and ultimately how the cell behaves. Such reversible chemical marks on DNA are known as epigenetic, and together they make up the epigenome.

“Regardless of the type of solid tumor, the pattern of methylation is much different on the genomes of cancerous cells than in healthy cells,” says Andrew Feinberg, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of medicine, molecular biology and genetics, oncology, and biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Feinberg led the new study along with Rafael Irizarry, Ph.D., a professor of biostatics at Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “These changes happen very early in tumor formation, and we think they enable tumor cells to adapt to changes in their environment and thrive by quickly turning their genes on or off,” Feinberg says.

Feinberg, along with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine oncology professor Bert Vogelstein, M.D., first identified abnormal methylation in some cancers in 1983. Since then, Feinberg’s and other research groups have found other cancer-associated changes in epigenetic marks. But only recently, says Feinberg, did researchers gain the tools needed to find out just how widespread these changes are.

For their study, the research team took DNA samples from breast, colon, lung, thyroid and pancreas tumors, and from healthy tissue, and analyzed methylation patterns on the DNA. “All of the tumors had big blocks of DNA where the methylation was randomized in cancer, leading to loss of methylation over big chunks and gain of methylation in smaller regions,” says Winston Timp, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. “The changes arise early in cancer development, suggesting that they could conspire with genetic mutations to aid cancer development,” he says.

The overall effect, Feinberg says, appears to be that cancers can easily turn genes “on” or “off” as needed. For example, they often switch off genes that cause dangerous cells to self-destruct while switching on genes that are normally only used very early in development and that enable cancers to spread and invade healthy tissue. “They have a toolbox that their healthy neighbors lack, and that gives them a competitive advantage,” Feinberg says.

“These insights into the cancer epigenome could provide a foundation for development of early screening or preventive treatment for cancer,” Timp says, suggesting that the distinctive methylation “fingerprint” could potentially be used to tell early-stage cancers apart from other, harmless growths. Even better, he says, would be to find a way to prevent the transition to a cancerous fingerprint from happening at all.



Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,300+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Bad Luck of Random Mutations Plays Predominant Role in Cancer, Study Shows
Statistical modeling links cancer risk with number of stem cell divisions.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Signals Found That Recruit Host Animals’ Cells, Enabling Breast Cancer Metastasis
Mouse studies suggest that blocking aid from white blood cells and stem cells could keep tumors contained.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Common Genetic Pathway Could Be Conduit to Pediatric Tumor Treatment
Investigators have found a known genetic pathway to be active in many difficult-to-treat pediatric brain tumors called low-grade gliomas.
Monday, November 11, 2013
A Simple Blood Test May Catch Early Pancreatic Cancer
Currently, disease usually found too late to save lives.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Tumor-suppressor Protein Gives Up Its Secrets
Discovery promises new targets for cancer drug design.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Cancer-Linked Fam190a Gene Found to Regulate Cell Division
Scientists have discovered that a little-described gene known as FAM190A plays a subtle but critical role in regulating the normal cell division process known as mitosis.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
Scientists Pair Blood Test and Gene Sequencing to Detect Cancer
Scientists have combined the ability to detect cancer DNA in the blood with genome sequencing technology in a test that could be used to screen for cancers, monitor cancer patients for recurrence and find residual cancer left after surgery.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Researchers Link New Molecular Culprit to Breast Cancer Progression
Johns Hopkins researchers have uncovered a protein “partner” commonly used by breast cancer cells to unlock genes needed for spreading the disease around the body.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Lost Molecule is Lethal for Liver Cancer Cells in Mice
MicroRNA kills tumor cells and lets healthy cells live. Scientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered a potential strategy for cancer therapy by focusing on what’s missing in tumors.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Miracle Diagnostic or Next New Fad?
Thanks to the development of highly specific gene-amplification and sequencing technologies liquid biopsies access more biomarkers relevant to more cancers than ever before.
Cancer Gene-Drug Combinations Ripe for Precision Medicine
The study aims to expand the number of cancer gene mutations that can be paired with a precision therapy.
Exploiting Malaria’s Achilles’ Heel
Researchers have uncovered an Achilles' heel in malaria's anti-drug treatment arsenal that could lead to a disease cure.
Targeting BRAF Mutations in Thyroid Cancer
Treating metastatic thyroid cancer patients harboring a BRAF mutation with vemurafenib showed anti-tumor activity in a third of patients.
Colon Cancer Blocked in Mice
Case Western Reserve University Researchers block common type of colon cancer tumour in mice, laying groundwork for human clinical trial.
Protein Nanocages Could Improve Drug Design and Delivery
HHMI scientists have designed and built 10 large protein icosahedra that are similar to viral capsids that carry viral DNA.
Cancer Related Immune Response Genes Uncovered
Researchers at the SBP have identified over 100 new genetic regions that affect the immune response to cancer.
New Therapeutic Targets For Small Cell Lung Cancer Identified
Researchers at UTSW Medical Center have identified a protein termed ASCL1 that is essential to the development of small cell lung cancer.
Liquid Biopsies Treating Ovarian Cancer
Researchers have discovered a promising monitor and treat recurrence of ovarian cancer. Detecting cancer long before tumours reappear.
Virus Inspired Cell Cargo Ships
Virus-inspired container design may lead to cell cargo ships following construction of ten large, two-component, icosahedral protein complexes.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,300+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!