A team of Stanford scientists has developed a tool to identify the biological signatures in cancer cells that can be traced back to the original cancer gene. As noted today in a Stanford Report story, the tool could help unravel the secrets of cancer and be "a boon to doctors prescribing therapies for their patients."
For the study, researchers examined an oncogene that is related to lymphoma and responsible for roughly 50 percent of all human cancers. An oncogene is a gene that can cause a normal cell to become cancerous when mutated, or be expressed at abnormally high levels. The team hoped to find a biological signature that would trace the mutating cancer cells back to the original oncogene. More from the article about the work:
Using an elegant statistical method from Robert Tibshirani, [PhD,] professor of health research and policy (biostatitstics) and of biostatistics, the team was able to identify not just one but 86 lipids that can be traced back to the oncogene.
"It's not just diagnostic," [postdoctoral researcher Livia Eberlin, PhD,] said. "It gives extra information that could be prognostic."
Depending on the bio-signature of the cancer cells, physicians will have a better idea of the aggressiveness of a patient's cancer. In the future, this research may lead to a better knowledge of cancer in general.
"The next step," said [Dean Felsher, MD, PhD,] professor of medicine (oncology) and of pathology, one of the team members from Stanford School of Medicine, "is to use this as a way to figure out the causal mechanism." Though the connection between the cancer cells and their origin is clear, the actual cause of cancer – the biological trigger that pushes cancer to progress – is still mysterious.
The study is scheduled to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previously: Smoking gun or hit-and-run? How oncogenes make good cells go bad, Cellular culprit identified for invasive bladder cancer, according to Stanford study and Blood will tell: In Stanford study, tiny bits of circulating tumor DNA betray hidden cancers