The gene cutter "CRISPR / Cas9" opens up completely new possibilities for cancer research. With it, cancer driving mutations can be detected and repaired specifically for the targeted mutation, scientists from the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden, the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) and the Medical Faculty of the TU Dresden have shown. Significant mutations could, in future, be diagnosed faster for personalised therapies for patients.
The CRISPR / Cas-Gene Cutter is one of the most revolutionary tools in biotechnology with enormous implications for biological and medical research. As a programmable DNA cutter, this system allows the selective cutting at predefined points in the genetic material of cells.
Now researchers at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden, the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) and the Medical Faculty of the TU Dresden have found a way to use this technology for the diagnosis and inactivation of cancer mutations. "Mutations in cancer cells are today identified with increasing speed by high-throughput sequencing," says Professor Frank Buchholz, Head of the study published in "Journal of the National Cancer Institute" (JNCI). "In most cases, however, it remains unclear what actually promote these genetic alterations in the disease and which have a major impact."
In the study, the authors aimed to establish how many of the more than 500,000 known cancer mutations can theoretically support targeted attacks. It was found that over 80 percent of the mutations with the CRISPR / Cas9 system are vulnerable. In experiments, the research team then showed that a number of these mutations can be selectively cut and inactivated in cancer cells. In this way, the researchers were able to identify those mutations that are largely responsible for cell growth and viability of cancer cells. "With this, we now have an instrument in our hands, with which we can quickly distinguish the cancer driven by the less relevant mutations," says Frank Buchholz.
Since each cancer is unique and has a specific combination of different mutations, this scientific approach could show promise in particular cancer diagnostics. Mutations that are crucial for the rapid growth of cancer could be detected specifically to initiate a targeted therapy based on this information.