June 19, 2024

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Cancer’s Hidden Language: Breakthrough Epigenetic Study Maps 1.7 Million Cell Pathways

Cancer’s Hidden Language: Breakthrough Epigenetic Study Maps 1.7 Million Cell Pathways



Cancer’s Hidden Language: Breakthrough Epigenetic Study Maps 1.7 Million Cell Pathways

A groundbreaking study in cancer epigenetics has analyzed 1.7 million cells from various cancers, uncovering unique DNA activation patterns crucial for cancer progression.

This research provides new insights into prognostic markers and potential targeted treatment strategies.

Cancer's Hidden Language: Breakthrough Epigenetic Study Maps 1.7 Million Cell Pathways

Each cell synthesizes its proteins by interpreting genetic information. Genetic mutations alter this information, impairing the function of affected proteins, a phenomenon studied in cancer genetics. However, a new field has emerged in the last few decades: cancer epigenetics.

Epigenetics changes do not alter information but momentarily change a cell’s ability to read certain genes, producing related proteins. A vast epigenetic program controls the general functioning of cells in this manner, and any alterations may put cells on the path to malignancy.

So, is there a way to track these changes and understand the epigenetics of cancer transformation?

An international research team has begun unraveling this long-awaited milestone. They analyzed 1.7 million cells from 225 primary and metastatic samples of 205 patients across 11 different cancer types.

For each cell, the research team obtained comprehensive transcriptomes, exomes, and epigenomes, covering almost all gene mutations, gene accessibility, and their consequences. Using powerful computational capabilities, they inferred the overall functional status of each analyzed cell and linked it to specific cancer types.

Published in the renowned scientific journal “Nature,” the study results indicate that many regions in DNA are activated or deactivated in a cancer-specific manner, forming the characteristics of each tumor.

These differences are associated with cancer progression, and many correspond to known cancer features—steps that cells must undergo in the process of malignant transformation. Dr. Eduard Porta, a member of the research team and group leader at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute (IJC-CERCA), brings extensive experience in analyzing large biological datasets.

The newly published findings suggest that epigenetic changes at the DNA level are fundamental causes of cancer. Specifically, enhancer region accessibility, a master regulator simultaneously acting on many genes, plays a crucial role.

Overall, these results converge into a concise gene list serving as valuable prognostic markers for clinical management of patients.

The analysis also identified cellular pathways of these crucial genes, enabling tracking of long-distance interactions among them. Sometimes, affected genes are fundamental, making direct medication without side effects challenging. However, understanding the entire pathway allows researchers to devise strategies targeting the weakest link in the chain, maximizing treatment efficacy while minimizing adverse effects.

Cancer’s Hidden Language: Breakthrough Epigenetic Study Maps 1.7 Million Cell Pathways


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