All cancers occur due to abnormalities in DNA sequence. Throughout life, the genome within cells
of the human body is exposed to mutagens and suffers mistakes in replication. These corrosive
influences result in progressive, subtle divergence of the DNA sequence in each cell from that
originally constituted in the fertilised egg. Occasionally, one of these somatic mutations alters
the function of a critical gene, providing growth advantage to the cell in which it has occurred
and resulting in the emergence of an expanded clone derived from this cell. Acquisition of
additional mutations, and consequent waves of clonal expansion result in the evolution of the
mutinous cells that invade surrounding tissues and metastasise. One in three people in the Western
world develop cancer and one in five die of the disease. Cancer is therefore the commonest genetic disease.
The identification of genes that are mutated and hence drive oncogenesis has been a central aim of
cancer research since the advent of recombinant DNA technology. The Cancer Genome Project is using the human
genome sequence and high throughput mutation detection techniques to identify somatically acquired sequence
variants/mutations and hence identify genes critical in the development of human cancers (see
here for a description of our strategy). This initiative
will ultimately provide the paradigm for the detection of germline mutations in non-neoplastic human genetic
diseases through genome-wide mutation detection approaches.
This is an ongoing project and we will be adding further data in the future.
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