New biomarker with links to multiple cancers discovered

8 February 2016

US scientists have discovered a promising biomarker with potential links to five different types of cancer.

A team from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified a specific signature in tumour DNA that results from a chemical modification of DNA called methylation, which controls the expression of genes.

An elevated methylation signature was found around the gene known as ZNF154 that is unique to tumours. It was seen across 15 tumour types in 13 different organs, among patients with colon, lung, breast, stomach and endometrial cancers.

The researchers therefore believe it could be a possible universal cancer biomarker with links to even more cancer types than were uncovered in this study.

Dr Laura Elnitski, a computational biologist for the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute, said: "No-one in my group slept the night after that discovery. We were so excited when we found this candidate biomarker. It's the first of its kind to apply to so many types of cancer."

It is hoped that it could be used to develop a new diagnostic test in future that would allow cancer to be detected earlier and treated more successfully.

Posted by Edward Bartel

 


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