A map of the "mutational processes" revealing how tumours develop has been designed by researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK. The chart could lead to the possibility of treating and averting various types of cancers.
The study discovered that all cancers have at least two "signatures", showing the various stages occurring in cancer development, and that certain cancers have a variety of mutational processes.
According to the findings, which were published in the scientific journal Nature, 7,042 cancers from people all over the world along with 4,938,362 mutations were removed and examined.
The researchers then examined 30 different types of cancers, looking for any patterns or processes that may cause the disease, and found 21 distinct validated mutational signatures.
Dr Serena Nik-Zainal of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who worked on the research, said: "[This] is an important step to discovering the processes that drive cancer formation."
"Through detailed analysis, we can start to use the overwhelming amounts of information buried deep in the DNA of cancers to our advantage in terms of understanding how and why cancers arise," she added.
Mike Stratton, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute director and the lead researcher of the study, revealed: "We’re beginning to know quite a lot about what the consequences of those mutations are. But actually we have a really rudimentary understanding of what is causing the mutations in the first place."
"And after all, the things that are causing those mutations are the causes of cancer," he added.
Researchers explained that although two mutational processes can signal ovarian cancer development, there are six that can lead to the progression of liver cancer.
Additionally, some of the signatures examined were seen in several cancer types, while others were only discovered in one type. Of the 30 cancers studied, about 25 had signatures from mutational processes that were tied to aging.
Stratton explained that the results were similar to exposing the "archaeological traces" of the mutational processes that lead to most cancers.
"This compendium of mutational signatures and the consequent insights into the mutational processes underlying them has profound implications for the understanding of cancer," said Stratton.
Image: Electron microscopic image of a single human lymphocyte (cancer cell). Photo courtesy of Dr Triche, National Cancer Institute.