Biologists have sequenced over 500 protein kinase genes found in 210 diverse human cancers and identified over 1,000 different mutations. It's thought the results, which swell the number of known cancer genes, will fuel therapeutic development and extend our understanding of cancer biology.
Genes belonging to the protein kinase family encode proteins that modify other proteins by adding phosphate groups to them. P. Andrew Futreal, Michael Stratton and colleagues chose to sequence them in cancer samples because disregulated kinase activity can trigger tumours, and the proteins are amongst the most tractable family of potential anticancer drug targets. Their results are presented in Nature.
There was substantial variation in the number and pattern of mutations in individual cancers. And whilst most of these mutations are likely to be 'passengers' that don't contribute to cancer formation, around 120 are thought to be 'driver' mutations that contribute to the development of the disease.
In another paper being published online in Nature, James R. Downing and colleagues identify a number of genetic mutations in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). They performed a genome-wide analysis of leukaemic cells from 242 paediatric ALL patients, using high-resolution single nucleotide polymorphism arrays and genomic DNA sequencing. Their data demonstrate the power of such approaches to improve our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of cancer, and show that it is possible to pinpoint altered genes and pathways for further analysis.
P. Andrew Futreal (The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK)
Don Powell (Press and PR, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK)
Daniel Haber (Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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