Scientists from Cancer Research UK and the Cancer Institute at the University College of London, have discovered that cancer literally creates chaos in the genetic code which is what allows it to multiply. The finding was published in the Journal Nature.
Most human body cells have 46 chromosomes but, instead, some cancer cells may have more than 100 chromosomes. This fact, however, is inconsistent when analyzed as a group of cells of the same region, as each may have a different chromosome count.
This diversity is what allows tumors to adapt to be intractable and can colonize other parts of the body, as the authors have explained to the BBC.
During an investigation to try to find answers to the diversification of the types of cancer, they found that in the case of colon cancer there is “little evidence” that when a cancer cell divides to create new cells the chromosomes are divided equally.
As explained by Charles Swanton, one of the authors of the study, it was observed that the problem originated in the copies of the genetic code of cancer. Cancers are encouraged to make copies of themselves. But when cancer cells deplete their own raw material or DNA, they developed what it is called “DNA replication stress.”
In this sense, the study showed that this stress leads them to make mistakes and diversification of tumors. “It’s like building a building without bricks or concrete enough at its foundation,” said Swanton. “However, if you can supply raw material DNA, it is possible to reduce stress on diversification to limit the duplication of tumors, which can be therapeutic,” he added.
The expert admitted that “it seems simply incorrect” to provide fuel for therapeutic cancer to grow, but that their observations are that such supply may limit the way and quickness with which cancer spreads.
Swanton notes that this technique has proven that the problem was about replication stress and that the finding can help provide news ideas as to how to attack the cancer.
In addition, Swanton and his team identified three genes that are normally lost in the diversification of intestinal cancer cells, which was critical for cancer suffering from stress in DNA replication.
All cells were located in a region of chromosome 18. This region, as explained by Nic Jones from Cancer Research UK, is “lost” in many cancers, “suggesting that this process is not unique to colon cancer.”
“Scientists can now start looking for ways to prevent this disorder from occurring or turning that instability into a factor that fights the cancer.”
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