Skin cancer patients may be able to have personalised treatment following a DNA discovery.
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Scientists hope to use new knowledge about DNA repair genes to tailor individual treatments at an early stage in a bid to increase survival rates.
The genes can help determine the success or failure of chemotherapy as higher levels of activity from the genes, which mend damaged strands of DNA, were associated with a poorer response to treatment.
In healthy cells, the genes are beneficial, but the latest breakthrough has shown how they can interfere with cancer treatments as they can undo the work done by many anti-cancer drugs.Many anti-cancer drugs work by damaging the DNA of tumour cells. But too-efficient DNA repair genes can override this effect, allowing the cancer cells to survive and spread.
The study involved 472 patients with malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
Scientists examined 502 cancer-related genes. They found that higher levels of protein produced by certain DNA repair genes in melanoma tumours were associated with resistance to chemotherapy treatment.
It is the first time that genes involved in DNA repair were identified as potential markers for a patient’s response to therapy.
The findings are reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
Lead researcher Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, from the Cancer Research UK Centre at the University of Leeds, said:
“Our study found that the increased expression of DNA repair genes in melanomas predict poorer outcome overall and provide preliminary evidence that those patients whose tumours have lower levels of the genes may respond better to standard chemotherapy for melanoma.”