Thursday, December 2, 2021

Common Gene Mutations Found Within All Forms of Cancer

Mutations within genes play a primary role in the formation and growth of cancer cells. A team of computational scientists led by Assistant Professor Edward Stites of Salk Institute wanted to take a better look as to what specific genes commonly mutated themselves to cause cancer, at least among cancer patients within the United States. In order to answer this question, Stites’ and his team had to overcome the challenge of the nonexistent classification system used among researchers who name or label different types of cancers. Some researchers named a form of cancer based on where it was found in the body while others named cancers based on its tumor type. This was a problem for Stite’s because it made it even more difficult to combine the genomic and epidemiological data sets to help him determine the genes that cause cancer among the cancer patients in the US as well as the percentage of the cancer patients affected. Stites’ and his team reclassified the cancer types, taking into account how common certain cancers were and using that to zero in on the common genes found among those cancers. It was found that the KRAS cancer-promoting gene that was originally believed to have 25% of cancers only actually affected 11%. This finding made Stites’ and his team realize the importance of spending more time to understand the mutational analysis of genes as a whole before zeroing in on what specific mutated genes cause cancer. 

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