Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

DNA study uncovers cancer triggers

  • Comment

A new source of cancer triggers has been discovered buried in the large expanse of DNA previously dismissed as “junk”.

Scientists highlighted “ultrasensitive” regions of non-coding DNA where even small alterations can effect many genes.

The data was used to develop a computer system called FunSeq which looks for non-coding genetic variants likely to have a big impact on human disease.

Applying FunSeq to 90 cancers - including breast, prostate and brain tumours - revealed almost 100 potential non-coding cancer drivers.

Non-coding DNA makes up 98% of the human genome but, unlike genes, does not provide instructions for making proteins.

Once all non-coding DNA was thought to have no function and was written off as “junk”. Now scientists know it plays an important role in regulating the activity of our 23,000 protein-encoding genes.

Among the new discoveries was a single DNA letter change that appears to have a major impact on the development of breast cancer. The change occurs in an ultrasensitive region central to a network of many related genes.

Lead scientist Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, said: “Although we see that the first effective use of our tool is for cancer genomes, this method can be applied to find any potential disease-causing variant in the non-coding regions of the genome.

“We are excited about the vast potential of this method to find further disease-causing, and also beneficial variants in these crucial but unexplored areas of our genome.”

The findings were published in the journal Science.

Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs