Washington: Scientists have revealed that after studying 12 major types of cancer, they have discovered 127 frequently mutated genes that seem to force the development and progression of a range of tumors in the body.
The research, which was conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, shows that some of the same genes commonly mutated in certain cancers also occur in seemingly unrelated tumors, for example, a gene mutated in 25 percent of leukemia cases in the study was found in tumors of the breast, rectum, head and neck, kidney, lung, ovary and uterus.
Based on the findings, the researchers envision that a single test that surveys errors in a swath of cancer genes eventually could become part of the standard diagnostic workup for most cancers.
The new research analyzed the genes from 3,281 tumors - a collection of cancers of the breast, uterus, head and neck, colon and rectum, bladder, kidney, ovary, lung, brain and blood.
In addition to finding common links among genes in different cancers, the researchers also identified a number of mutations exclusive to particular cancer types.
These genetic errors occur frequently in some cancers and rarely in others but are nevertheless thought to be important to cancer growth.
While the average number of mutated genes in tumors varied among the cancer types, most tumors had only two to six mutations in genes that drive cancer. This may be one reason why cancer is so common, the researchers said.
Results of such testing could guide treatment decisions for patients based on the unique genetic signatures of their tumors.
The discovery also sets the stage for devising new diagnostic tools and more personalized cancer treatments.
The research is published in the journal Nature.