This article was originally published by Wellcome Sanger Institute on 11 April 2018 and can be accessed here.
New research on bowel cancer has revealed that every tumour and cell is genetically unique. The first study of its kind, researchers used the latest single cell and organoid technologies to understand the mutational processes of the disease:
“The team worked on tissue from three patients with colorectal cancer, taking normal bowel stem cells and cells from four different areas of the tumours. They then grew these into organoids – 3D ‘mini-guts’ – in the laboratory to amplify the single cells so they could be studied.”
The researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Hubrecht Institute in The Netherlands discovered that the tumour cells had many more mutations than normal cells, and that not only was each bowel cancer genetically different, but each cell they had studied within that cancer was different:
“The study discovered that the mutational processes in cancer cells are very different from those in healthy cells and that the increase in mutation rate seems to be a general feature of these colon cancers. Their study also suggests that the mutation rate starts to change many years before the cancer is diagnosed. This time window could provide diagnostic clues in the future if it were possible to identify the rise in mutation rate early in a cell.”