Publish Date: 
Friday, October 31, 2014 - 13:30

Study discovers DNA abnormality shared by some oesophageal cancer patients

31 October 2014

A joint study conducted in three Queensland hospitals has discovered a DNA abnormality shared by some oesophageal cancer patients.

Researchers believe determining the cause of the damage could lead to dramatic advancements in treating and even preventing throat cancer.

"Chromosomal catastrophe" is the name researchers have given to the sudden process of cell mutation they believe leads to oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC), one of Australia's fastest rising cancers with one of the worst survival rates.

Associate Professor Barbour from the University of Queensland’s School of Medicine at TRI, said they would be able to tailor or personalise the patient's therapy based on understanding the genetic abnormalities in their cancer.

"The way we understood cancer otherwise was that it took a long time to accumulate these events through lifestyle, through exposure and some other predispositions," Associate Professor Andrew Barbour said.

"But what we think happens with these type of events is that it will happen very suddenly, within one cell division."

The discovery was an important clue in the fight against the deadly disease.

Clinical trials could begin within three years

The hope was to eventually prevent incidents of chromosomal catastrophe. A research paper detailing the findings has been released to the Nature Communications journal. If funded, the project group believed clinical trials could begin with oesophageal cancer patients within three years.

Oesophageal cancer is known as a slow-growing cancer as it can take years for symptoms, including heart burn and reflux to develop. In the majority of cases in Australia OAC diagnosis is too late for treatment.

"Removing the tumour is their best hope, but fewer than 50 per cent of patients are diagnosed early enough for surgery," associate professor Barbour said.

Dr Nic Waddell, who led the study at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said in 32 per cent of patients there had been a catastrophic event that damaged the DNA, which resulted in highly-mutated and rearranged genomes.

"In all patients there was evidence of genetic scarring or 'footprints' of damage to the DNA in the tumour cells," Dr Waddell said.

Original article ABC news website