Science

Scientists have linked a change in the genome to cancer

How DNA damage affects the onset of cancer highlights new research by Australian and Dutch scientists who have identified an underlying cause behind the early onset of leukemia.

In their study, experts from the Melbourne Medical Research Institute and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands looked at samples from three patients aged around 30 with an unusual form of early AML, in patients about 70 years of age. The researchers found that younger patients lacked a DNA repair protein called MBD4, which caused DNA damage to accumulate at a higher rate than normal, as if they were prematurely aged.

As the researchers explain, analyzing the genomes of the patients found that all three patients had changes in the same genome, called MBD4, a genome coding for a protein that restores the damage to methylation. The loss of MBD4 in these patients explains why their cells did not restore the damage. All cancers are caused by changes in the genome of a cell and as a person grows his DNA accumulates damage, which can cause these changes and increase the risk of developing cancer.

According to this latest research, the damage to methylation is particularly strong with blood cancers such as leukemia and according to the research team the next step is to understand precisely why blood cells are at risk from this form of lesion DNA.