New research into the genetic and molecular features of cancers that have spread has revealed the diversity of these tumours and the immune cells within.
The US team behind the research suggest that the findings could help guide treatment decisions in the future and identify patients who might benefit from certain treatments, such as those that target the immune system.
“Our hypothesis is that we could use this to help determine who is likely to respond to immunotherapy,” said lead researcher Dr Arul Chinnaiyan from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“This is the first study to really take a deep look at a significant number of metastases, a characteristic of advanced cancer” – Professor Andrew Biankin, Cancer Research UK
As cancers develop and progress, they can spread to other parts of the body and become more difficult to treat. During this process of cancer evolution, the genetic characteristics of the tumours may also change. It’s the features of these later stages of disease that the researchers focused on.
The team read the DNA, or genomes, from cells in healthy tissue and tumours that had spread (metastasised) in over 500 patients with more than 20 types of cancer. They also looked at which genes were switched on or off in the cancer cells, and profiled the immune cells that were inside the tumours.
The scientists then compared this information with data on early…