Hundreds of Genes Linked to 2 Cancers

Cancer Genetics Experts Find 280 Genes Linked to Colon, Breast Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 12, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 12, 2007 -- New research shows that cancer genetics isn't about one or two cancer genes, but about hundreds of them.

Researchers today reported that they've found 280 cancer genes tied to colorectal and breast cancers.

The discovery could one day help doctors tailor cancer treatment to each patient's unique genetic profile.

The findings appear in today's advance online edition of the journal Science.

The researchers included Bert Vogelstein, MD, of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

They studied DNA from 11 breast tumors and 11 colorectal tumors, as well as DNA from normal tissue.

Vogelstein's team identified 280 genes that were different in the tumors than in the normal tissue.

Those cancer genes affect up to 20 chemical pathways in the body, but their exact function isn't clear, according to Vogelstein's team.

The researchers say that when it comes to cancer genetics, there are "mountains" and "hills." The "mountains" are genes with major impact. The hills are genes with subtler effects.

Vogelstein and colleagues aren't claiming to have found all cancer genes. But they write that their findings provide "a wealth of opportunities for personalized immunotherapy."