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Drs. Gray, Spellman & colleagues develop method to determine order of mutations that lead to cancer

Joe Gray, PhD, Associate Director for translational research for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and Paul Spellman, PhD, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discuss findings

Discovery underscores how understanding the abnormalities that develop in the beginning stages of cancer can identify the root causes of the disease.

Zeroing in on the early cell mutations that enable a cancer to grow is one of the best ways to find a personalized therapy to stop it. Scientists were able to use a statistical approach for the first time to map out the order in which these abnormalities form to analyze the pattern of DNA changes in advanced skin and ovarian tumors.

The study’s findings, which are published in the July edition of Cancer Discovery, are the result of a collaboration of scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, San Francisco; and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.

The researchers focused on assessing mutations involving TP53, a gene that normally prevents cells from becoming cancerous. By examining how additional copies of the mutant gene accumulated, they found that changes in TP53 occurred earlier in the disease’s progression than previously believed.

Cancers are the result of multiple mutations, but the ones that happen first set the stage for additional abnormalities.


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