New research into the genetic and molecular features of cancers that have spread has revealed the diversity of these tumours and the immune cells within.
“Our hypothesis is that we could use this to help determine who is likely to respond to immunotherapy,” said lead researcher Dr Arul Chinnaiyan from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The team read the DNA, or genomes, from cells in healthy tissue and tumours that had spread (metastasised) in over 500 patients with more than 20 types of cancer. They also looked at which genes were switched on or off in the cancer cells, and profiled the immune cells that were inside the tumours.
They found that the metastases were very genetically diverse and generally had more faults in their DNA than early tumours. The team also found that more than 12% of the patients sampled had cancer cells carrying inherited faulty genes that could affect the likelihood that their disease spreads.
The majority of these faults were found within genes that fix damaged DNA. As scientists have developed drugs that can target this process, this finding may have implications for treating patients in the future, the authors claim.
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