Hereditary factors that increase the likelihood of cancer mutations detailed in new study

A study of 11,000 cancer patients reveals 42 hereditary genes which predispose individuals to a higher number of mutations that correlate with a greater probability of developing cancer.

The research may lead to new personalized prevention and/or early detection strategies that assess a patient’s hereditary risk of developing different types of cancer.

The study is the result of a collaboration between the Institute for Research in Biomedicine and the Centre for Genomic Regulation. It is published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Mutations occur in various tissues and organs of an individual. Somatic mutations occur in cells that will not give rise to offspring and are therefore not passed on to subsequent generations. Caused by a large number of factors such as age and smoking, somatic mutations are the main cause of cancer and also play a role in other diseases.

A study led by ICREA researchers Dr. Fran Supek at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Dr. Ben Lehner at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) has identified hereditary genetic traits that predispose individuals to the appearance of specific types of somatic mutations in their tissues. People with higher mutation rates in an organ are more likely to accrue mutations in key cancer genes which may increase the risk of tumour formation.

Researchers have previously described the hereditary mechanisms that predispose individuals to cancer, though many tumors do not have a clear genetic explanation. It is conceivable that cancer risk might result from changes in the spectrum of different types of somatic mutations, a common cause of cancer.

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