An unprecedented analysis of how cancers grow has revealed an “almost infinite” ability of tumours to evolve and survive, leaving scientists “surprised” and “in awe” at the formidable force they are up against. The study, called TracerX, provides the most in-depth analysis of how cancers evolve and what causes them to spread, tracking lung cancers in 400 people over nine years.
The research showed that highly aggressive cells in the initial tumour are the ones that ultimately end up spreading around the body, and tumours with higher levels of genetic “chaos” were more likely to relapse after surgery. Analysing blood for fragments of tumour DNA meant signs of it returning could be spotted up to 200 days before appearing on a CT scan.
The findings suggest that achieving cures in all patients with late-stage disease is a formidable task, and that more focus should be placed on prevention and early detection. Obesity, smoking, alcohol and poor diet all increase the risk of some cancers, while tackling inflammation in the body is also being seen as a way of preventing cancer.
Dr David Crosby, the head of prevention and early detection at Cancer Research UK, said: “The exciting results emerging from TracerX improve our understanding that cancer is a disease which evolves as it progresses, meaning that late-stage cancers can become very hard to treat successfully. This underscores the crucial importance of further research to help us to detect cancers at the earliest stages of their development or even better, to prevent them from happening at all.”
The research has revealed the almost limitless ability of cancer to evolve and survive, leaving scientists in awe of its formidable force. It has highlighted the need for more focus on prevention and early detection, as a universal cure is unlikely any time soon.
Obesity, smoking, alcohol and poor diet all increase the risk of some cancers, while tackling inflammation in the body is also being seen as a way of preventing cancer. Analysing blood for fragments of tumour DNA can help spot signs of cancer returning up to 200 days before it appears on a CT scan.
Cancer Research UK has emphasised the importance of early detection, as this is key to increasing the chances of successful treatment. The research has shown that late-stage cancers can become very hard to treat successfully, so further research is needed to help detect them at the earliest stages or even prevent them from happening in the first place.