Cells show signs of becoming cancerous years before turning malignant, finds Standford study
By identifying the initial steps associated with future cancer development, it may be possible to diagnose the disease earlier than ever before
Researchers at Stanford Medicine have discovered that cancer cells accumulate specific genetic changes in a predictable and sequential manner years before they become identifiable as pre-malignancies, Stanford Medicine News Centre reported.
These changes affect pathways that control cell division, structure, and internal messaging, which means that the cells are already on the path to becoming cancerous long before any visible signs or symptoms appear.
This study is the first to extensively observe the natural evolution of the earliest stages of human cancers.
It starts with cells that have a single cancer-priming mutation and ends with a group of descendants that have a variety of genetic abnormalities.
By identifying the initial steps associated with future cancer development, it may be possible to diagnose the disease earlier than ever before.
This could potentially prevent a deadly outcome. Additionally, it could lead to the discovery of new interventions that can stop the disease from progressing.
Christina Curtis, PhD, professor of medicine, genetics, and biomedical data science, expressed the hope of intercepting the progression of cancer cells before they become fully cancerous.
She posed the question of whether it is possible to identify a small set of genetic alterations that indicate cell progression and if intervention is feasible. The remarkable consistency in the observed genetic changes from multiple donors suggests that such interception may be possible, she said.
The research, published in Nature on May 31, was led by former postdoctoral scholar Kasper Karlsson and visiting graduate student Moritz Przybilla.