Scripps Discovers Genetic Clues into Formation of Cancer Tumors

Study opens door to more personalized approach to future cancer treatment

San Diego – A new research study from Scripps Health provides previously unknown genetic clues into how cancerous tumors are formed in the human breast, brain and colorectal system. The findings by researchers at Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) will be published in the September 2009 edition of the journal Genome Research.

STSI researchers analyzed genetic data from 44 breast cancer, colorectal cancer and glioblastoma tumors and identified specific mutations within groups of genes that are strongly involved in tumor formation. A mutation is a change in a cell’s DNA.

While a large number of mutations occur within any tumor, not all of them contribute directly to the tumor’s growth. Some mutations are akin to “random noise” while other mutations cause a growth advantage for tumors. The STSI study differentiated between the random and causative mutations.

“Understanding which specific mutations cause a tumor to form is an important step that may potentially translate into a more personalized approach to treating cancer patients,” said Ali Torkamani, Ph.D., an STSI research scientist and the study’s principal investigator. “These mutations provide us with targets for drug development that presumably would be more efficient at killing cancer, with lower toxicity levels that are safer for patients.”

The new study builds upon earlier research conducted by Johns Hopkins University scientists, who sequenced cancerous tumors and studied individual genes linked to tumor growth. Because there are many different ways a tumor can be formed, STSI designed its research to look at groups of genes.

Torkamani co-authored the study with Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., director of bioinformatics and biostatistics for STSI.

About Scripps Health

Founded in 1924 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, Scripps Health is a $2 billion nonprofit community health system based in San Diego, Calif. Scripps treats a half-million patients annually through the dedication of 2,600 affiliated physicians and 12,700 employees among its five acute-care hospital campuses, home health care services, and an ambulatory care network of clinics, physician offices and outpatient centers.

Recognized as a leader in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, Scripps is also at the forefront of clinical research and graduate medical education.

About Scripps Translational Science Institute

Founded in 2006, Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) is an initiative of Scripps Health, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute. STSI initiates research designed to help move basic research from the lab to the patient bedside, bridging the gap between basic science and clinical trials. STSI programs include Scripps Genomic Medicine, which focuses on defining the genes that underlie susceptibility to disease; and Scripps Advanced Clinical Trials, which tests individualized treatment and prevention strategies in collaboration with pharmaceutical, medical device, biotechnology and diagnostic companies.

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Contact: Steve Carpowich
Phone: 858-678-7183