Unlocking Cancer’s Ancestry – CNET

Unlocking Cancer’s Ancestry – CNET

Could knowing where your ancestors came from hold the key to better cancer treatments? Maybe, but where would that key go? How to trace the ancestral roots of cancer to modern solutions? For research professor Alexander Krasnitz of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), the answers could lie deep within vast databases and hospital archives containing hundreds of thousands of tumor samples.

Krasnitz and CSHL postdoctoral fellow Pascal Belleau are working to uncover the genealogical links between cancer and race or ethnicity. They developed new software that accurately infers continental ancestry from tumor DNA and RNA. Their work could also help clinicians develop new strategies for early cancer detection and personalized treatments.

“Why do people of different races and ethnicities get sick at different rates with different types of cancer?” said Krasnitz. “They have different habits, living conditions, exposures – all kinds of social and environmental factors. But there may also be a genetic component.”

Krasnitz’s team trained their software tools using hybrid DNA profiles. They created these profiles from cancer-free, unrelated genomes of known background. They then tested the software’s performance against pancreatic, ovarian, breast and blood cancer samples from patients of known ancestry. The team found that the software matched their hybrid profiles to continental populations with over 95% accuracy.

“We have a good model to build on,” says Krasnitz. “But very few individuals come from a single ancestry. We are all mixed up to some degree. So we are now working to deepen our research, testing tumor samples of unknown ancestry, revealing ancestral admixtures, and achieving greater regional specificity.” How specific? For now, think about West Africa as opposed to East Africa.

Krasnitz and Belleau recently joined a colorectal cancer study in collaboration with Northwell Health and SUNY Downstate Medical Center. The study allows them to explore how colorectal cancer mutates genes in different ways across specific races or ethnicities. They hope to further refine their software to infer ancestry not just from entire genomes, but also from each individual sequence they contain.

“If we can identify more localized ancestors that are susceptible to different cancers or other aggressive diseases, that could help us pinpoint the specific part of the genome responsible and target it for treatment,” Belleau said.

Right now, a simple DNA sample can tell you where you came from and what diseases you are at risk of inheriting. In the future, it might give you the means to beat them too.

Source of the story:

Material provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Original written by Nick Wurm. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

#Unlocking #Cancers #Ancestry #CNET

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