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Study shows colon and rectal tumors constitute a single type of cancer
Date:7/18/2012

The pattern of genomic alterations in colon and rectal tissues is the same regardless of anatomic location or origin within the colon or the rectum, leading researchers to conclude that these two cancer types can be grouped as one, according to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project's large-scale study of colon and rectal cancer tissue specimens.

In multiple types of genomic analyses, colon and rectal cancer results were nearly indistinguishable. Initially, the TCGA Research Network studied colon tumors as distinct from rectal tumors.

"This finding of the true genetic nature of colon and rectal cancers is an important achievement in our quest to understand the foundations of this disease," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "The data and knowledge gained here have the potential to change the way we diagnose and treat certain cancers."

The study also found several of the recurrent genetic errors that contribute to colorectal cancer. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both parts of the National Institutes of Health, was published online in the July 19, 2012, issue of the journal Nature.

There is a known negative association between aggressiveness of colorectal tumors and the phenomenon of hypermutation, in which the rate of genetic mutation is abnormally high because normal DNA repair mechanisms are disrupted. In this study, 16 percent of the specimens were found to be hypermutated. Three-fourths of these cases exhibited microsatellite instability (MSI), which often is an indicator for better prognosis. Microsatellites are repetitive sections of DNA in the genome. If mutations occur in the genes responsible for maintaining those regions of the genome, the microsatellites may become longer or shorter; this is called MSI.

NCI estimates that more than 143,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colo
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Contact: NCI Office of Media Relations
ncipressofficers@mail.nih.gov
301-496-6641
NIH/National Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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