A study by Professor Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Dr Bogumil Kaczkowski from RIKEN Japan has uncovered a pattern in genes that could lead to improved diagnosis for a range of cancers.
The study published this week in Cancer Research discovered a trend of genetic patterns, known as markers, which are switched on or off across the majority of cancer types.
Cancer markers are substances that are produced by tumours and are used to help detect, diagnose and manage some types of cancer.
Many cancer types have no known useful markers, so this important research is the first step to diagnosing these cancers and could help identify new drug targets, potentially helping millions of people.
Professor Forrest said he was delighted that the team had been able to detect so many significant cancer markers and was optimistic about the research leading to improvements in early diagnosis methods.
“Two of the top four genes identified as being turned ‘on’ in the majority of cancer types, already have FDA approved drugs that can be used to target them,” Professor Forrest says.
“It is so rewarding to see that our initial basic science approach to map the elements that regulate the genome can soon be applicable to early cancer diagnosis, which will hopefully help to save lives."
This study is an important milestone for Professor Forrest, as it’s his first cancer paper published since he returned to Australia in 2014 funded by a Senior Cancer Research Fellowship from The Cancer Research Trust and donations from the MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Prior to this, he was based at RIKEN, Japan (a national science agency akin to CSIRO) leading a large international consortium (FANTOM) working on aspects of basic biology. His move back to Australia has allowed him to continue his important work in Systems Biology and Genomics but now with a renewed focus on cancer.
Professor Forrest and his colleagues in Japan hope to secure funding to start testing these markers in patient samples, working closely with doctors in Australia and Japan.