Early signs of cancer can appear years or even decades before the actual diagnosis of cancer in the body. A genetic study has revealed that there is a long window of opportunity to diagnose cancer in certain cancer types.
The study was carried out as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project. It is said to be one of the most comprehensive studies of cancer genetics to date. Although the findings might not change the diagnosis of cancer in patients in the immediate future, the study believes that the risk can be assessed far earlier than expected.
One of the co-authors of the research, Peter Van Loo, from the Francis Crick Institute in London, told a news channel that unlocking the patterns can help in developing new diagnostic tests and pick up any sign of cancer at a very early stage.
Scientists analyzed several samples
The findings are based on a sample of 2,500 tumors and 38 cancer types. According to the study, the earliest mutations happened in only nine genes. This means that the pool of genes that is common that can reveal the triggers for cells to diverge from healthy development to a path towards cancer is relatively small. The study says that this revelation can increase the possibility of detection of the mutation of the cancer cells through liquid biopsies.
The study has opened a window for wider research possibilities which could help in the detection and curing of cancer in humans. Although the human cells go through billions of mutations, only a small number of them called the driver mutations can cause cancer.
The analysis of the research was published in Nature as part of the pan-cancer project and involved 22 other papers.
Common symptoms related to common cancers
The study has changed the perspective in the diagnosis of cancer since the symptoms relating to cancer can take time to be visible in the body. According to the World Health Organization, it is the second leading cause of death globally. The most common cancers and their symptoms are: