Researchers from the University of Louvain (KU Leuven) and the Francis Crick Institute in London have identified 27 new genes that slow down the growth of cancer cells. The discovery, which was reported yesterday (31 October), brings new perspectives on the development of tumors and the processes they disrupt. These genes can also serve as targets in the development of new therapies against cancer.
Cancer is caused by genetic changes, which can involve a minimal change in the DNA code as well as the duplication or disappearance of large parts of this code. The majority of these mutations (so-called passenger genes) do not contribute to the development of the tumor while other genes – called cancer driver genes – influence the growth of cancer cells.
From an analysis of 2,200 tumor samples, the researchers detected 96 parts of the human genome lost during the development of tumors. They identified 27 driver genes that slow down the growth of cancer cells.
“For the tumor to grow it has to get rid of these genes. The places where they have disappeared also provide good information about the development of cancer,” says Peter van Loo (KU Leuven / Francis Crick Institute).