Breast cancer kills over 8 million people every year worldwide, and its incidence is expected to increase by over 50% in the coming decades. To fight this disease it’s key to detect genetic mutations that trigger cancer as soon as possible. The PCAWG (Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes) research, an international collaboration involving over 1,300 scientists from four continents, has sequenced complete genomes of the most frequent tumour types over a decade. It’s the most complete genomic study conducted so far, and the conclusion is exciting: the genetic damage leading to cancer can be detected years before the disease manifests itself.
The results of this project have been published on Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-1969-6) and have been made available to the whole world. The project has analysed the complete genome of over 2,600 tumours of 38 different types of cancer before the patient received any treatment. This way, the genomic changes occurring on the tissue that lead to cancer have been successfully determined. The results of this research will allow us to understand how tumours evolve, we will be able to diagnose earlier and to develop new treatments.
In this study, mutations predisposing the individual to have cancer have been identified on healthy tissue up to 10 years before the tumour develops. These findings will allow to develop new genetic tests that identify signs of cancer much earlier than we do now. We are step by step moving towards personalised cancer treatment. These new advances will allow us to diagnose the type of tumour more accurately and therefore, choose the most suitable treatment for each patient.