BBC – James Gallagher
A single tumour can be made up of many separate cancers needing different treatments, say researchers.
A team at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, have developed a new technique for measuring the diversity within a cancer. They showed “extraordinary” differences between cancerous cells and say new targeted drugs may fail as they may be unable to kill all the mutated tissue. Experts said the findings would have “profound implications” for treatments.
A tumour starts as a single cell, which acquires mutations and eventually divides uncontrollably. But that is not the end of the process. Cancerous cells continue to mutate and become more aggressive, move round the body and resist drugs.
“Every patient has a completely new tree and doesn’t have one cancer, they have multiple cancers”
Prof Mel Greaves Institute of Cancer Research
This process is chaotic and results in a “diverse” tumour containing cancerous cells that have mutated in different ways. “This has huge implications for medicine,” researcher Prof Mel Greaves told the BBC.
His team at the Institute of Cancer Research investigated cancer diversity in five children with leukaemia. They compared mutations in individual cancerous cells with a known database of mutations.
Their results, published in Genome Research, showed patients had between two and 10 genetically distinct leukaemias.
Prof Greaves said: “Every patient has a completely new tree and doesn’t have one cancer, they have multiple cancers.
“This is really a technical advance to get at this extraordinary complex diversity, it helps explain why we have such difficulty with advanced diseases.”…READ FULL ARTICLE