‘Encyclopedia’ of cancer mutations could pinpoint new carcinogens

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Previously, scientists have had only a limited number of tools for working out the cause of an individual’s tumor. As it is now possible to study the entire human genome very rapidly, scientists have been able to find all the mutations in a patient’s cancer, and see patterns – or ‘mutational signatures’ – in these tumors.

Now, in a study published in the journal Cell, a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and King’s College London have developed a comprehensive catalogue of the mutational signatures caused by 41 environmental agents linked to cancer. In future they hope to expand it further, using similar experimental techniques, to produce an encyclopedia of mutation patterns caused by environmental agents.

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Some of the environmental agents studied are known carcinogens, such as polycyclic hydrocarbons and sunlight. For the first time, the researchers also studied some of the individual chemicals found in tobacco smoke and identified which ones cause signatures similar to those found in smokers’ lung cancer.

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They also identified the fingerprints left behind by common chemotherapy drugs, some dietary chemicals and some present in diesel exhaust fumes. This study shows how human DNA is vulnerable to many agents in our surroundings.

Read full, original post: DNA Mutation “Fingerprints” Could Help ID New Cancer Culprits

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