Breakthrough in early cancer diagnosis

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cancer researchAUSTRALIAN researchers have discovered a new way that cancer can be passed down from parents to children that will allow them to diagnose the disease earlier.

Previously researchers believed young cancer sufferers inherited a parent's gene mutation.
However doctors were at a loss to explain why tests showed no sign of genetic mutation in some people with cancer.

Now researchers from St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney and the University of New South Wales have discovered that a chemical which paralyses part of the body's DNA can also be passed down from parents to children and cause cancer.

The breakthrough proves that the chemical - which wraps itself around part of the DNA and renders it useless - rather than a mutation of genetic code, causes some cancers.

It was previously thought that this chemical defect could not be inherited.

"There are a lot of young people who have cancer and we really don't know what causes it and this may be the explanation," said Robyn Ward, an oncologist from St Vincent's Hospital who lead the study.

Professor Ward said the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, would allow doctors to re-test people who previously showed no signs of cancer.

"If we know that someone has a risk of the cancer, we can intervene early and treat it."

The team made the discovery after studying three boys whose mother had bowel cancer.

Traditional tests showed the boys had not inherited their mother's faulty gene and therefore were not at risk of developing cancer. However one son was found to have inherited the same chemical defect, indicating a predisposition to bowel cancer.

"Even though his gene sequence appears to be absolutely normal, his gene has nevertheless been paralysed by this coating wrapped around it," said co-researcher and geneticist Megan Hitchins.

"That leaves us with an entirely new pattern of inheritance."

source The Australian News 

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