Cancer Can Start To Develop Fifty Years Before Diagnosis

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Cancer Can Start To Develop Fifty Years Before Diagnosis

Cell changes that lay the groundwork for cancer can occur decades before cancer is found.

Scientists studying kidney cancer have found that the first DNA damage eventually leading to cancer can occur as early as childhood, in some cases fifty years before diagnosis.

In a trio of studies simultaneously published in the journal Cell, researchers have provided vital new information as to how kidney cancer begins, evolves and progresses, which they hope will lead to better tests to detect the cancer early and more personalized treatment options for patients.

One of the research papers, co-led by researchers at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK showed that the genetic abnormalities that eventually lead to cancer can occur decades before the primary tumor is diagnosed.

Dr Peter Campbell, one of the leaders of the study said: “What is remarkable is that the hallmark genomic event that characterises kidney cancer takes place on average 40 to 50 years before the cancer is diagnosed.”

In kidney cancer, this event is frequently a loss or a gain of a part of a large chunk of DNA called a chromosome. In this case both happen simultaneously, paving the way for more genetic disruptions, which continue to build up until the cell becomes cancerous. Abnormal numbers of chromosomes are frequently found in cancer, but by identifying that this specific abnormality typically occurs so long before diagnosis, the researchers hope that their results will open up new opportunities for monitoring and early detection and treatment of kidney cancer. This may be especially useful for people who have a high-risk of developing the disease, such as those with close family members who have been affected.

“These first seeds are sown in childhood or adolescence – knowing the sequence of events and their timings opens opportunities for early intervention,” said Campbell.

Read on: Cancer Can Start To Develop Fifty Years Before Diagnosis 

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