Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine looking at 12 different types of cancer have identified 127 significantly mutated genes that appear to drive development of a range of tumors in the body. Those scientists hope the findings and more like them in the future could become part of standard cancer diagnosis.

Li Ding, PhD of the Genome Institute at Washington University

Li Ding, PhD of the Genome Institute at Washington University

Doctor Li Ding says the ability to identify those genes combined with additional research in the future could lead to a complete list of cancer genes responsible for all human cancers.

“Once we identify the specific mutation … we know which string the mutation is from … we can use existing drugs or develop novel therapy for treating the cancer.”

She says doctors can begin using the results found so far, while further research will look at more tumor samples and more cancers to look for more mutated genes.

“I believe that by increasing the sample size and increasing the tumor types we should be able to identify almost all the important cancer genes responsible for the development of different types of human cancers in the near future.”

A cancer gene panel set could be used upon diagnosis or after a patient has already been diagnosed.

Ding believes more important is that it could be used for cancer prognosis, making it another step toward more effective and individualized treatments. “Knowing after a patient has been diagnosed with cancer, then we can look at the specific mutations they have and develop a targeted therapy.”

The research utilizes advances that make analysis of cancer cells faster and cheaper.