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Gene Study Offers Hope of Potent Anti-cancer Drugs

A study has opened the way for a new generation of drugs to combat the genes that give rise to the growth// of cancer tumors.

Scientists have carried out the widest survey yet of the genetic errors that causes tumors to grow. The findings will be used to design anti-cancer drugs targeted at counteracting mutations in a patient's DNA.

All cancers are thought to result from an accumulation of mutations in one or another of the 30,000 genes in the human genome. These mutations cause a cell to multiply uncontrollably to form a tumor that can then spread to other parts of the body.

Scientists have identified about 350 genes that have been implicated in the development of different cancers but, until now, have not had a clear idea about how many mutations in these genes were directly involved in triggering cancer.

The latest study analyzed 200 samples of cancerous tissue, surveying 500 genes and sequencing more than 250 million letters of the DNA code. An international team of more than 60 scientists led by Michael Stratton of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge identified 158 mutations in 120 genes that they believe can be implicated in cancer development.

Professor Stratton said the number of mutations that appear to be involved in driving the growth of cancerous tumors was larger than expected, but ultimately the technique will allow scientists to acquire a complete catalogue of all the mutations involved in each class of cancer.

"The human genome is a vast place and this, our first systematic exploration in cancer, has thrown up many surprises," said Professor Stratton. "We have found a much larger number of mutated driver genes produced by a wider range of forces than we expected. It's important because the more cancer genes we find, the more targets we'll have in terms of potential new drugs."

The study, published in the journal Nature, compared the genetic sequence of
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