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Scientists Crack 'Entire Genetic Code' of Cancer

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the whole-tumor dept.

Medicine 235

Entropy98 writes "Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of skin and lung cancer. From the article: 'Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumors far earlier, they will also yield new drug targets, say the Wellcome Trust team. The scientists found the DNA code for a skin cancer called melanoma contained more than 30,000 errors almost entirely caused by too much sun exposure. The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure. From this, the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke. Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.' Yet another step towards curing cancer. Though it will probably take many years to study so many mutations."

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Benign (4, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30466960)

I didn't use to like skin cancer, but it grows on you

How real is this? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467098)

Do these guys promise to come back in 2 years and report on their progress?

Re:How real is this? (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467562)

I think they are waiting for journalists to make a comprehension breakthrough. I mean if researchers actually managed to cure cancer one day what would be the headline?

Re:How real is this? (3, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467796)

"Obama Presides Over Cancer Cure."

Re:How real is this? (2, Informative)

amirulbahr (1216502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468146)

Not redundant. Seriously, think before you mod. You may not like the post but it's definitely not redundant as no one else has made the same comment.

Try to mod good posts up, rather than look for ones you disagree with and mod down. If you must, then a -1 Flamebait or Overrated would be more appropriate here.

Re:Benign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467952)

You can't make fun of cancer? yes you can sir!

Re:Benign (1)

olrik666 (574545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468144)

Bad joke!

If I could, I'd lung at you!

So please stop these jokes if you can, sir.

Powers (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30466980)

Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer

And some will give you super powers.

Re:Powers (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467384)

Oozing puss man?

Chemo barfing woman?

Bleeding ulceration boy?

Radiation Man? (from radiation treatment)

Tumor boy?

Re:Powers (3, Funny)

Mister_Stoopid (1222674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467640)

Good luck with that. I smoked 45 cigarettes yesterday and all I got was fast metabolism 1, deformed body 1, and teleportitis without TC.

Re:Powers (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468140)

and teleportitis without TC.

Oooh, I remember when Lieutenant Barclay got that. Pretty nasty stuff.

Just have them coalesce your pattern through the transient bypass buffer a few times. That should sort you out.

Sadly, the article makes no sense (5, Insightful)

Thagg (9904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30466992)

What does it mean that melanoma has 30,000 errors in the DNA? Is it that the one melanoma they looked at had 30,000 differences from the other cells in the patient's body? It appears that, far from finding the needle in the haystack, they've found 30,000 haystacks.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467050)

The breakthrough isn't in the results, it's in the technique. They're developing new methods and software to perform this sort of analysis faster and faster. That's what's big about this work. They can now do a very difficult task much more rapidly than before.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (2, Interesting)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467096)

I have very little background in this area. But I'm curious. If skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun, then it must be different for each patient? Because it's cause isn't inherited it seems to me that each patient with skin cancer has a unique and individual genetic cause to their skin cancer. Something akin to snow flakes. Perhaps once they find the absolute minimum change within the genes of an otherwise healthy human to having skin cancer, headlines can claim that scientists "crack entire genetic code of cancer."

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467388)

keep your day job

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (5, Informative)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467634)

That's pretty much on target. UV light is absorbed by DNA, and it causes changes like Thymine-Thymine dimers (ATCG are DNA bases, a T-T dimer is when two adjacent T's on the same strand bind to each other). Cells have DNA repair mechanisms, some of which are accurate, others of which are not. If the repair is inaccurate you have a mutation in a semi-random location (needs something like two adjacent thymines, and it probably needs to not be in it's condensed storage form). A mutation in each of about 8 genes that control the cell cycle will lead to uncontrolled replication and further mutation. Certain types of cells are vulnerable to different things, and require certain genes to be knocked out (or overexpressed) to form certain types of cancer. It's all very random, but there are trends within each type of cancer (hence its behavior).

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467770)

Ah, but it is somewhat inherited, because pasty white boy is far more likely to get cancer than ultra-dark black man, because his melanin doesn't block the sun and lets more mutations happen.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (3, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468008)

In these particular studies, they're only looking at 'somatic mutations' (mutations confined to the tumour, and not found in the patient's normal cells). Anything they inherited that might have made them susceptible to cancer in the first place gets 'cancelled out' by comparing the tumour DNA to normal DNA (e.g. from blood). You have to do a different type of study to find susceptibility genes, e.g. by using a large collection of 'normal' DNA samples from a population and collecting their medical data. Right now, this is being done at a relatively low resolution using 'SNP arrays' that usually only look at a few hundred thousand DNA bases (a few million max). But because of genetic linkage, this can still give you very useful information about where the important genes are. When the genome sequencing technology gets _really_ cheap, we can except this sort of study to be done by sequencing too.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (4, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467862)

It's true that each patient is extremely likely to have a unique 'cancer genome', a specific combination of mutations found only in their tumour. But the vast majority of these will be 'passenger' mutations that aren't relevant to the progress of the tumour. The trick, as you suggest, is to home in on the 'driver' mutations that are really causing the disease. One way to get at these is to look first at the mutations in the coding sequences of known genes (and because of the human genome project and all the work that's followed it, we pretty much know where all the protein-coding genes are located).

I just had a quick look at both papers, and it turns out that in the lung cancer case, fewer than 100 of the tens of thousands of mutations actually cause an amino acid change in a protein sequence (for the melanoma, the figure is less than 200). This doesn't mean that there aren't other interesting needles to find in the haystack of mutations (e.g. changes in regulatory sequences), but they might as well go after the 'low hanging fruit' first. With current technology, it's very easy to sequence 100-200 genes in a pretty large set of samples from different patients. Any of these genes that turn out to be mutated in multiple tumours immediately become subjects for further study.

As the technology starts to ramp up and gets cheaper every year, we can begin to go after the less obvious changes. Each of these studies is in effect an entire human genome project (they haven't just done a low resolution map, they've completely sequenced the genomes). Pretty soon we're going to have a large collection of sequenced tumour samples to compare and use to find common alterations.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467116)

I suspect they looked at tissue from a bunch of melanomas and have generated data showing where they differ from normal samples.

But 30,000 errors in the DNA doesn't mean those cells were exposed to 30,000 mutating events (the 1 for every 15 cigarettes or whatever). Generally what happens is that a cell gets mutations in a few critical locations and then subsequent issues during cell division do dramatic damage to the genome.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (4, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467820)

But 30,000 errors in the DNA doesn't mean those cells were exposed to 30,000 mutating events (the 1 for every 15 cigarettes or whatever).

Enough of your logic. You're upsetting the smokers who want to believe that as long as they smoke less than 450,000 cigarettes they won't get cancer.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467118)

Is it that the one melanoma they looked at had 30,000 differences from the other cells in the patient's body? It appears that, far from finding the needle in the haystack, they've found 30,000 haystacks.

Not quite. It's more like they ** think ** they've found a map to the 30,000 needles in a single haystack and they hope that the haystacks (individual humans) are similar enough that they can generalize a bit on how to find the other needles in other haystacks.

FTFAbstract:

All cancers carry somatic mutations. A subset of these somatic alterations, termed driver mutations, confer selective growth advantage and are implicated in cancer development, whereas the remainder are passengers. Here we have sequenced the genomes of a malignant melanoma and a lymphoblastoid cell line from the same person, providing the first comprehensive catalogue of somatic mutations from an individual cancer. The catalogue provides remarkable insights into the forces that have shaped this cancer genome. The dominant mutational signature reflects DNA damage due to ultraviolet light exposure, a known risk factor for malignant melanoma, whereas the uneven distribution of mutations across the genome, with a lower prevalence in gene footprints, indicates that DNA repair has been preferentially deployed towards transcribed regions. The results illustrate the power of a cancer genome sequence to reveal traces of the DNA damage, repair, mutation and selection processes that were operative years before the cancer became symptomatic.

The researchers state (and I haven't really had time to look at the article) that they have identified all, or at least the vast majority, of mutations from a single cancer and furthermore have managed to characterize (see above) the mutations. Other researchers have done similar research for other cancers. The idea is that, after all of this information is digested, somebody can use this knowledge to figure out better treatments for cancers. Of course, this remains to be seen. It's reasonable but by no means certain. The babble at the end of the BBC article is typical hyperbole.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (1)

moogied (1175879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467124)

Cancer is basically when your cells are broken and are spawning hellish death cells to kill you. These cells 'break' when they mutate. Errors in the DNA has long been assumed as the cause of the cells turning to cancer, so if they found 30k errors in the DNA of melanoma VS standard issue skin cells.. and that one of those 30k errors may be causing cancer. Yes, it is like finding 30k haystacks... however its better then the infinite # of haystacks we had before.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (5, Insightful)

sevennus (1702060) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467214)

Remember, it takes three events for a cell to become cancerous. 1. It must mutate to be able to express appreciable amounts of telomerase. 2. It must mutate in such a way that it circumvents its apoptosis (self-destruction) checkpoints. 3. It must mutate in such a way to allow constitutive, amplified replication. True, there are probably a gazillion different combinations of different mutations that can cause allow all of these things to happen, but I'm pretty sure it can't be caused by ONE mutation. But it's just my first post, so don't take my word for it.

tHIS iS yOUR fIRST fLAME (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467442)

Go fuck your daddy, n00b. AC will chew you up and spit you out.

Re:tHIS iS yOUR fIRST fLAME (1)

auLucifer (1371577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467648)

Oh my. An AC troll without a spelling mistake and good grammar! Sorry Mr AC but you fail

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (3, Interesting)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467600)

it's not quite that simple. there are many many many events that are required, and it can't really be boiled down to those three categories. there are some key players that are almost always inactivated in some way or another across any cancer types (eg p53 or Rb), but many are unique to particular cancers (eg GSK-3b).

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467200)

It seems that something as random as sun exposure causing enough of just the right errors to trigger cancer is akin to the midevil theories of spontaneous generation.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467350)

And yet it is well documented that increased radiation exposure results in higher rates of cancer.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467506)

I've always wondered about that. The test for cancer is to... swallow a bunch of radioactive isotopes and then get zapped by large doses of radiation that cause the swallowed isotopes to show up in a way that an image can be constructed? That sounds like a bad deal to me.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (4, Insightful)

ppanon (16583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467792)

The test for cancer is to... swallow a bunch of radioactive isotopes and then get zapped by large doses of radiation that cause the swallowed isotopes to show up in a way that an image can be constructed?

Well, I'm assuming you're talking about CT/CAT scanning and that's one way to find cancer early when it's still small. Not all imaging techniques involve ingesting radioactives, though. MRIs [wikipedia.org] use very powerful magnets to interact with hydrogen to detect fine structures in the body. Some cancers are more easily detectable with one imaging approach vs. the other. Another way involves waiting until the cancer has progressed and grown so much that it's easy to notice but very likely to kill you.

Anyways, it's all about risk trade-offs. Dentists also regularly bombard you with low doses of ionizing X-rays to take a picture of your teeth to detect cavities. Not treating those cavities could lead to needing root canals, pulling the tooth, or even bad gum disease that can affect your immune system and heart health.

The problem with MRI is that it needs very strong magnetic fields and the rapid drop off of magnetic field strength currently make it impractical for use on a torso, as opposed to a head or a limb. Maybe that will change eventually. However even some radiation from a CATScan is a good trade-off if they suspect some types of cancer and it allows them to detect and treat it early.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (1)

atmurray (983797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468086)

In fact you'll find that CT/CAT scans expose you to a comparable amount of radiation as flying: http://www2.ans.org/pi/raddosechart/pdfs/raddosechart.pdf [ans.org] 1 full body CAT scan is about the same as 220 hours of flying (10 long haul flights) 1 Thyroid scan about the same as 28 hours of flying (just over 1 long haul flight) There's lots of sources of radiation, not only that but studies have started to show that constant low level exposure to radiation may in fact reduce you susceptibility to cancer.

Re:Sadly, the article makes no sense (2, Interesting)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467244)

Not necessarily. If they can find a protein corresponding to one of these mutations that is not produced in a healthy cell: presto, instant cancer test.

Patent? (4, Insightful)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467008)

I wonder if they will patent this so everyone who develops a treatment using techniques discovered here must cough up a royalty?
 
Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

Re:Patent? (2, Funny)

speedingant (1121329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467184)

If it's lung cancer, they'll be coughing up more than just a royalty. Badom-pish!

Re:Patent? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467344)

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

That's just it, though - the patent is granted for the isolation, refinement, or modification of the gene. The issue is what is considered 'naturally occurring.' Chemical composition patents are granted based on the assumption that the composition isn't just sitting around and easy to get at.

The policy question is whether just protecting the process used to isolate something is enough, rather than protecting the actual thing itself.

Re:Patent? (4, Interesting)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467358)

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

I've read interviews with multiple government and legal officials, whose basic point seems to be that patents on genes are a "necessary evil", because research into genomics is really, really, really expensive, and without patents + licensing fees giving biotech firms some way to recover some of their investment now (as opposed to ten years down, when drugs based on their discoveries could conceivably come to market), no businessperson would even think of throwing his money at that kind of research. According to them, without patents, there would be no research and progress in this field whatsoever.

I'm not saying whether or not I agree with that, but that's the way it is.

Re:Patent? (4, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467906)

This sort of thing should probably be done by academia or government then. Progress for the greater good doesn't have to be commercially driven.

Re:Patent? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468222)

Or, you could leave it up to the private sector with a few caveats. For one, once a patent holding corporation recoups the investment costs (plus a profit margin), the patent is rendered null and void.

Basically, give the private sector enough incentives to allow capitalism to fulfill its primary role while at the same time not hinder the common good of everyone else.

Re:Patent? (2, Interesting)

tg123 (1409503) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468212)

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

.......no businessperson would even think of throwing his money at that kind of research. According to them, without patents, there would be no research and progress in this field whatsoever.
I'm not saying whether or not I agree with that, but that's the way it is.

The reality is business people / drug companies do not invest in drug research period.

Business investment tends to goes into marketing the drug its the university's and research institutes that do the drug research.

http://www.uab.edu/reynolds/MajMedFigs/Index.htm [uab.edu]

Re:Patent? (1)

Tangentc (1637287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467378)

It's mainly in case you ever want to sue any girl you knock up for patent infringement.

Re:Patent? (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467450)

I wonder if they will patent this so everyone who develops a treatment using techniques discovered here must cough up a royalty?

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

The genes aren't patentable. The methods they developed probably are. Patents are there to provide incentive for the research to take place at all. There may be some problems on how long patents last and process issues, but fundamentally they are supposed to provide incentive to invest in research and science.

Tell That to Monsanto (4, Informative)

Telephone Sanitizer (989116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467818)

> The genes aren't patentable.

Tell that to Monsanto. If the genes from their GE plants turn up in a farmer's soy crop, he's in for hell even if they just drifted over as pollen from neighboring fields.

In the United States, patents protect not just the device or technique, but also the product of it. Thus, those who patent techniques for isolating genes also have patent-protection for the genes, themselves. Patents do not ordinarily cover "products of nature," but when something exists in a lab in "purified" form, it's exempted from this limitation. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/patents.shtml [ornl.gov]

Here's what Monsanto does with their patents:
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0115-04.htm [commondreams.org]

Under U.S. patent law, a farmer commits an offense even if they unknowingly plant Monsanto's seeds without purchasing them from the company. Other countries have similar laws.

In the well-known case of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, pollen from a neighbor's GE canola fields and seeds that blew off trucks on their way to a processing plant ended up contaminating his fields with Monsanto's genetics.

The trial court ruled that no matter how the GE plants got there, Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto's legal rights when he harvested and sold his crop. After a six-year legal battle, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that while Schmeiser had technically infringed on Monsanto's patent, he did not have to pay any penalties.

Schmeiser, who spoke at last year's World Social Forum in India, says it cost 400,000 dollars to defend himself.

"Monsanto should held legally responsible for the contamination," he said.

Another North Dakota farmer, Tom Wiley, explains the situation this way: "Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell."

Re:Tell That to Monsanto (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468110)

That's not entirely true. Chemical patents are process or molecule, not both. And in this case you couldn't patent the gene sequence to begin with since it's a matter of discovery rather than creation.

Re:Patent? (2, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467478)

I wonder if they will patent this so everyone who develops a treatment using techniques discovered here must cough up a royalty?

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

Both are good questions. And to the latter, I would say it is likely because most of our peers, politicians, and people involved in everything we do in life, do not understand these specific things to any degree to which they can make better INFORMED decisions about them. Most people don't understand what is going on in most sciences, but develop opinions on it anyway; in turn, we shape our cultures and politics in a somewhat similar form (yes, the corps will influence politics heavily with their lobbying/influence, no need to reply to me with that obvious fact). Education, or lack of in this case, is what is key here. The more people know, the better decisions they can make. In even a quick look at so many things that have value/importance to our lives, one can easily discern the impact of the layman's assumption on the field as a whole.

Re:Patent? (2, Insightful)

ImOnlySleeping (1135393) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467722)

The ICGC's policies and guidelines are very specific, http://icgc.org/icgc_document/policies_and_guidelines/ [icgc.org] "The objective of ICGC policy regarding intellectual property (IP) policy is to maximize public benefit from data produced by the Consortium. It is the view of the ICGC members that this goal is achieved if the data remain publicly accessible without any restrictions."

Better yet (3, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467018)

Maybe we can make cigarettes that don't cause cancer.

Re:Better yet (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467426)

Yeah but, I can't stand the stink and they cause many other problems - high blood pressure and heart disease for examples. Also, smoking ages you faster.

Re:Better yet (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467500)

Oh, it bothers you so other people shouldn't do it?

Fat people bother me. No more mcdonalds for you, fatso.

Re:Better yet (1, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467692)

Oh yeah - smoker!

While you our outside, freezing in the rain smoking your cigarette, I'm nice and warm, in front of my computer, enjoying myself, looking DOWN on you for being sooo weak eating my chessburger - inside!

So there!

Re:Better yet (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467554)

Like this?* [google.com]

* (possibly perhaps maybe)

Cold turkey (1)

capebretonsux (758684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467022)

Well I just quit.

(Actually, I've been smoking less and less this week, haven't - and won't - buy a new pack once this last one's gone. With this news, the 1 in 15 smokes stat is a real motivator!)

Re:Cold turkey (1)

incognito84 (903401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467064)

The best way to quit permanently would be to leave Cape Breton. Its either the cigarettes or the tar ponds!

Re:Cold turkey (2, Funny)

capebretonsux (758684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467462)

Been Cape-Breton-Free for years now, on the other side of the country enjoying the oh-so-lovely -28C we've had the past couple of days. Take it from me, it's a truly 'unique' sensation to have snot freeze into icicles as it's comes out of your nose...

Re:Cold turkey (5, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467086)

the 1 in 15 smokes stat is a real motivator!

Maybe, but if you only smoke the other 14, you should be OK.

Unless the 15th one isn't labeled, then it's harder.
 
/me ducks

Re:Cold turkey (1)

capebretonsux (758684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467502)

Unless the 15th one isn't labeled, then it's harder.

This being Canada, of course the 15th (or so) one isn't labelled. But of course, it ain't tobacco either!

This is good news. (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467024)

I for one welcome our cure for cancer finding overlords.

Both my parents died from it and I suspect I probably will too. Or maybe not if they can find a cure.

Two preventable cancers (2, Interesting)

Meshach (578918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467040)

Interestingly the article seems to only reference "preventable" cancers:

The scientists found the DNA code for a skin cancer called melanoma contained more than 30,000 errors almost entirely caused by too much sun exposure. The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure.

Hopefully this will lead to treatments for other cancers as well.

Re:Two preventable cancers (2, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468180)

They started off with a couple of common cancers, but the plan is to do many more:

http://www.sanger.ac.uk/about/press/2008/080429.html [sanger.ac.uk]

'The ICGC will identify a list of approximately 50 cancer types and subtypes that are of clinical significance around the globe, aiming to study cancers of all major organs, including breast, ovary, prostate, lung and blood cancers...All the data generated will be made rapidly and freely available to the global research community. '

This is bad news. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467054)

And this will all be copyrighted. So only those with $$$ will be saved because only those with $$$ are worth anything.

Right? Obviously the Christians will disagree with that statement.

Yea, stop smoking tobacco (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467082)

So, since it's cigarette smoke that's the problem... Everyone switch to pot?

Re:Yea, stop smoking tobacco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467402)

I don't think tobacco is the problem, but rather all the other crap they put is cigarettes. Odds are if everyone switched to pot, they'd pull the same crap to draw in more customers and then you'd have a bunch of high people with cancer.

Might be okay, might not. (4, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467496)

So, since it's cigarette smoke that's the problem... Everyone switch to pot?

I know you're joking, but there's no conclusive evidence that nicotine itself causes cancer. It's particulate matter and other smoke residues that seem to drive lung cancer, and we know that there are just as many carcinogens in pot smoke as tobacco smoke.

Weirdly, however, large studies seem to indicate that there isn't an increased cancer risk from heavy pot smoking. [webmd.com] Other research suggests that THC reduced lung cancer growth. [sciencedaily.com] However, pot smokers are at elevated risk for other lung diseases [sciencedaily.com] that come purely from breathing hot smoke all the time.

So, if you're going to switch from tobacco to marijuana, consider going with methods other than smoking. You may not get cancer from smoking, but it's still not good for you, and there are much safer ways to get high. (They are also ways that do not force other people in your presence to participate through second-hand smoke, which will bother others regardless of the long-term health risks or lack thereof.)

Re:Might be okay, might not. (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467688)

there's no conclusive evidence that nicotine itself causes cancer

I always thought that the nicotine is completely harmless. You can chew the nicotine gum for every second of your life and you will probably be fine.

It is the tar from the cigarette smoke that is the culprit. All those smoke particles accumulating in your lungs is probably not a very healthy thing. Only reason why everyone is so anti-nicotine is that it makes you want to get more smoke into yourself.

Could be wrong though. Just word of mouth stuff.

Re:Might be okay, might not. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467802)

I know you're joking, but there's no conclusive evidence that nicotine itself causes cancer. It's particulate matter and other smoke residues that seem to drive lung cancer, and we know that there are just as many carcinogens in pot smoke as tobacco smoke.

Weirdly, however, large studies seem to indicate that there isn't an increased cancer risk from heavy pot smoking.

Marijuana: pick the buds, dry them, grind it up, then smoke
Cigarette: pick the leaves, dry them, add hundreds of chemicals, grind it up, then smoke

I thought it was well understood that cancer is mostly caused by the incredible amount of additives that get put into cigarettes. I wonder if putting the chemical frankenstein that is cigarette tobacco into a vaporizer would cause less damage than smoking normally does.

Comparison (3, Insightful)

Jkasd (1663231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467084)

It seems that they should do this with cancer cells from several different patients and compare them to find out which mutations actually trigger the cancer.

Re:Comparison (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468148)

'It seems that they should do this with cancer cells from several different patients and compare them to find out which mutations actually trigger the cancer.'

Believe it or not, they have thought of this! An international consortium has been set up to use exactly this technology on a really large scale. See e.g.:

http://www.sanger.ac.uk/about/press/2008/080429.html [sanger.ac.uk]

'Each ICGC member will conduct a comprehensive, high-resolution analysis of the full range of genomic changes in at least one specific type or subtype of cancer, with studies built around common standards of data collection and analysis. Each project will each require cancer specimens from 500 patients and have an estimated cost of US$20 million.'

//HACK ..? (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467126)

Hacking would be to add or change something on that code on a original but cheap way to produce a practical result. Chop chop.. hack hack.

The article sounds more like deassembling the code. but IANGE.

Misleading... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467134)

This is a terrible summary. There is no *single* cancer genome. They sequenced the genome of one cancer biopsy. There are probably as many different cancer "codes" (also a horribly misleading term) as there are tumors in the world.

Cancer is not a single disease, it is a phenomenon, like evolution. This would be like sequencing the genome of two organisms and claiming to've "cracked the evolution code".

Fuck yea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467156)

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

So will this mean? (1)

tlpintpe (1315197) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467210)

Will this change how the tobacco companies are viewed?

The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flawed (5, Informative)

WhiskerBiscuit (811421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467216)

Cancer cells start accumulating mutations as a consequence of rapid cell division and poor quality control on DNA replication; they also have problems keeping their chromosomes intact. This is called "genomic instability" and it is a hallmark of cancer.

The critical point here is that most of these mutations are acquired *after* the cancer gets going, regardless of whether the mutagen in question is still being administered.

Therefore, it's not proper to infer a linear relationship between the dose of mutagen and the number of mutations.

Beyond that, the numbers involved in that extrapolation seem to have been pulled out of thin air, and I question whether they knew the smoking history of the individual who donated the material that created that cell line. (The lung cancer in question had 30,000 mutations, so by their logic the smoker must have smoked 345,000 cigarettes, or 17,250 packs of 20. That's a pack a day for 47 years, which is admittedly within the bounds of possibility, but still an awful lot of smoking.)

Whatever. Smoking is still awful for you, but this kind of nonsensical extrapolation without regard to detail is terribly annoying.

Re:The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467274)

Why is 40-a-day for 25 years in a sufferer of lung cancer that much of a surprise?

Re:The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flaw (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467418)

I agree. Most confusing summary.

Are they saying that all 30,000 mutations are the DIRECT result of exposure to sunlight, or are they saying an initial mutation caused by sunlight exposure was then multiplied by cell division/replication?

If it was the first case, how did they determine the cause of each mutation? If it was the second case, the question still remains--How did they determine the cause of ANY of these mutations?

"Whatever. Smoking is still awful for you, but this kind of nonsensical extrapolation without regard to detail is terribly annoying."

Yes, terribly annoying, but apparently it gets them grant money.

Re:The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467650)

the article is total crap. UV light causes very specific kinds of DNA damage (pyrimidine dimers for the most part), but simply replicating too quickly without the proper error repair mechanisms working at full efficiency is more than enough to induce mutations simply from polymerase errors. the parent is spot on: the genetic instability of cancer contributes significantly to the mutations, and only a subset of them are related to the cancer's actual ability to survive/continue proliferating.

Re:The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flaw (1)

dragonjujotu (1395759) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467606)

Well the summary actually says it's 30,000 mutations for skin cancer and 23,000 for lung cancer, but at least you got it right in your math.

Re:The extrapolation for lung cancer is badly flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468224)

Actually, the article in Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091216/full/news.2009.1143.html) reports that it's 15 mutations per cigarette smoked. BBC got it wrong.

FTA: "The team estimates that every cigarette smoked results in 15 mutations."

Thereby making it only 100 packs needed to cause cancer.

Thank goodness for the free market! (1)

foqn1bo (519064) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467256)

It's exhilarating to see such visceral confirmation of the superior efficiencies of free market capitalism. If the scientists working for this cancer research corporation didn't have the profit motive behind them, who knows how long it would have taken for them to reach this point in their research, that is, if the project had even gotten off the ground at all!

Re:Thank goodness for the free market! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467390)

I hope you are sarcastic: google wellcome trust
The Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. We fund innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each ...

Re:Thank goodness for the free market! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467486)

Right. Now we just need to get the political groups who favor laissez-faire to stop firing scientists as soon as they get into office.

Re:Thank goodness for the free market! (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467488)

And the patent system that will allow them to have a monopoly so that they'll make (hopefully) plenty of money as incentive and financing to keep researching for other things, show others that they can make money by helping people, the best and brightest will see that they don't have to go into law or medicine or finance to make it "big" or just make enough to pay off their student loans - which will be very important in the near future as college tuition continues its double digit inflation.

Re:Thank goodness for the free market! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468156)

You forget the massive number of medical breakthroughs that have come from the labs of for-profit drug companies. Not all medical research is done this way. Much is done through private foundations and government grant research. They can all co-exist.

In other news... (4, Funny)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467380)

Cancer will be issuing a DMCA take-down notice and sue the pants off the scientists for cracking its code.

Does this mean (2, Funny)

JO_DIE_THE_STAR_F*** (1163877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467480)

you can smoke 344,999 cigarettes and not get cancer but if you smoke just one more BAM! CANCER!
I know it doesn't but the article kinda hints at that.
Wouldn't it be great though if it was that precise.
15 cigs = 1 DNA error
23,000 errrors = CANCER
15 Cigs X 23,000 = 345,000 cigs
345,000 Cigs = Cancer
Average life span ~67 years
If you start smoking at 18 that's ~17,897 days till your dead anyway
So you can have 19 Cigarettes a day.
Hey cigarette companies I think I have a new marketing campaign for you. You just need to start selling packs of smokes with 19 Cigs in each.

drivers vs passengers (3, Informative)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467556)

I just completed an intensive undergraduate course on cancer with a focus on genetics at UC Berkeley. We spent a significant amount of time on cancer genomes, and I have to say this announcement doesn't mean that much unfortunately. Cancers are genetically very unstable, and any given tumor you sequence will have many mutations that are completely unrelated to the cancer's survival and proliferation. they are known as passenger mutations, and need to be separated from the causative 'driver' mutations. sequencing many tumors of the same type and applying statistical analysis has been useful in this area, but considering that there are potentially millions of different combinations of active and inactive genes that lead to tumor formation, this approach has its limitations. this is especially true given that some genes are both tumor suppressors and tumor activators in different contexts (eg the TGF-b pathway). even if you identify a genetic locus as highly associated with a particular cancer, it is hard to go from there to understanding the molecular biology behind that association.

we have a long way to go before we defeat cancer, and sequencing can only take us so far.

Population and cancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30467564)

This pains me to say - a couple of friends of the family have been diagnosed with cancer- one very dear to me and with limited time to live, the other a very decent man and doesn't know his chances yet.

I can't help but think that cancer is acting as a brake on the population explosion. If we cured cancer tomorrow these people who are dear to me wouldn't suffer, but we'd be even less sustainable and eventually we'd see wide spread poverty and famine. So the question becomes: If we do gather the knowledge we need to cure various forms of cancer so that those dear to us don't suffer, what are we going to do to balance things out and prevent the population from skyrocketing?

I don't have easy answers. I certainly don't like watching friends and family die, and would like to see a proper cure instead of various poisons in the form of radiation and drugs that take their toll on the person as much as the disease.

Re:Population and cancer (2, Insightful)

suitifiable (1702072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467710)

I can't help but think that cancer is acting as a brake on the population explosion.

Umm, no.

Cancer, in general, happens to people well past the age of reproduction. Which means it has little, if any, effect on population growth rates.

If there are diseases you'd like to keep around to prevent overpopulation, may I suggest lobbying to return Smallpox to the wild instead? Or just become a pro-AIDS activist, since the latter seems to be doing a good job of cutting into African population growth.

Seriously, some of you people scare me....

Re:Population and cancer (1)

dikdik (1696426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467734)

It seems to me that any number of debilitating and lethal diseases can be seen this way and that population control should be proactive. If we can cure cancer, it would seem that population control through education would be a far better way to ensure population control without the horrible pain and suffering that the afflicted and their loved ones endure.

I realize that birth control education/legislation/etc. brings up an entirely new conversation (one I'm not trying to start here) but I'd pretty much support anything that would have kept friends and family from dying a slow, painful death.

Re:Population and cancer (5, Insightful)

n0tWorthy (796556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467812)

Nope. There's been a large reduction in cancer deaths due to research and treatment advances (I'm a two time cancer survivor, 1 a stage 4 of the neck) so cancer is having a much smaller reduction on population than it used to. Also, since cancer occurs after the reproductive years in the vast majority of cases there is no breeding it out of the system. If cancer killed people before they reproduced then the genetic causes of cancer would be eliminated pretty quickly.

You can support your family and get support at the American Cancer Society Cancer Support Network (http://csn.cancer.org/). A lot of people there going through the same things you and your friends are.

Re:Population and cancer (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468004)

Don't worry too much about population explosion.

It is a mystery to me, but somehow human population is controlling itself. And this is without any war, famine or diseases.

Look for example at Japan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aging_of_Japan [wikipedia.org]

There hasn't been any large conflict there ever since World War Two. Haven't heard of any kind of outbreaks or hunger. Yet the childbirth rates are falling.

Seems like similar is happening in Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aging_of_Europe [wikipedia.org]

"Entirely Caused By Sun" - Show Me The Evidence! (1)

idealego (32141) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467652)

"The scientists found the DNA code for a skin cancer called melanoma contained more than 30,000 errors almost entirely caused by too much sun exposure."
This is obviously such a ridiculous statement that I'm surprised it made it into the BBC article.
Show me the evidence that almost 100% of DNA errors in skin cells or skin cancer cells are caused by sun exposure...

Re:"Entirely Caused By Sun" - Show Me The Evidence (2, Informative)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468246)

'Show me the evidence that almost 100% of DNA errors in skin cells or skin cancer cells are caused by sun exposure...'

Not 100% perhaps, but from the paper:

'DNA damage due to ultraviolet light leads to the formation of covalent links between two adjacent pyrimidines. Consequently, C>T mutations due to ultraviolet light usually occur at dipyrimidine sequences. Therefore, to evaluate further the role of ultraviolet light in the pathogenesis of somatic mutations in COLO-829, we examined the sequence context of C>T substitutions...[Lots of technical stuff about the sequence context of the mutations with some impressive looking p-values] ...Therefore, the mutation spectrum and sequence context indicate that most C>T/G>A somatic substitutions in COLO-829 are attributable to ultraviolet-light-induced DNA damage.'

Insurance companies must be excited (1)

dippityfisch (1564885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467670)

Ah let me see...my crystal ball says that in the future you will be excluded from insurance cover if your DNA shows cancer markers. What about that job you applied for? Your DNA says that you may have a propensity for borderline personality disorder...go straight to management!

Oh good, another scary number (3, Interesting)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467740)

One of the things driving me when I began the quitting process was that my back of the napkin math showed I had smoked in the area of 148,000 cigarettes. I had a hard time putting that in terms of anything else. I couldn't compare it to any other non-reflexive thing. I haven't signed my name 148,000 times, or tied my shoes. What have I done 20+ times per day for 20 years?

Now I learn that that means I have 10,000 cell mutations on top of that. Neato. Of course, 10,000 cells is kind of a drop in the bucket compared to the inner surface of my airway.

To smokers: Please note his does not mean that I'm not still hopefully addicted to nicotine. Now it just comes in the form of Cherry Commit Lozenges [commitlozenge.com] . They work pretty OK. I've had maybe 1 cigarette per month for the last 5 months.

On the other hand, I miss that I no longer look cool.

If this is true (1)

TheRecklessWanderer (929556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467744)

If this is true, does that not mean (by cause and affect) that there is a provable direct relation between cigarette smoking and cancer? Would that not indicate that a lawsuit is in order?

Cancer of other things (1)

amazingxkcd (1682296) | more than 4 years ago | (#30467806)

Now that these scientists got the genetic code for skin and lung cancer, should we get them to figure the genetic code for the stupidity cancer? I think so, it will be hard, but very well rewarding

Misleading title... (4, Interesting)

hahn (101816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468044)

Saying they've "cracked" the code to these two cancers (skin and lung) is not really as big a step as the title implies. They've found the genetic mutations associated with the cancers. That's probably the easy part (and it wasn't so easy). The problem in studying cancer is that the function of genes is often dynamic and interdependent. Think of a room with 30,000 light switches. Sometimes light switch #5 will turn on the light bulb, but sometimes it won't. It depends on whether light switch # 7, 100, and 10542 are all on simultaneously or not. And if switch #2742 is on, the light, if it's on, will be very dim. This why even though we give a cancer a single name - e.g. "melanoma" - there are often very different mutations present, any one or multiple ones which can affect the person's survival, but not necessarily all the time. There are cancers which reliably result from single mutations, but the most common ones are due to mutations in many many different genes. To the point that most cases of cancer can or should be considered unique.

IMHO, where I think the results of these studies may be most helpful with regards to treating people successfully is figuring out which mutations cause the cancer to spontaneously regress [nih.gov] , whether it's by self-destruction or immune mechanisms. Even then, maybe it's not even because of a cancer mutation. Maybe some people possess some genetic trait in their immune system that allows them to destroy cancers. In which case, too many people would be looking in the wrong haystack for a needle.

Great! (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468108)

"the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke."

I will now become a heavy smoker in hopes of gaining X-Men-like superpowers.

biochemistry noob asks: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30468138)

Isn't "crack" slightly sensationalistic?
Seems like this type of endeavors have recently been fairly routine.

The "real" cause of cancer (3, Funny)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 4 years ago | (#30468170)

After much research and thought, I've come to the conclusion that white mice actually cause cancer.
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