A collaborative study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI) and the University of Cambridge, led by Jyoti Nangalia (Haematology, Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (CSCI) and WSI), Peter Campbell (WSI) and Tony Green (Haematology and CSCI) has traced genetic mutations, linked to adult blood cancer, to childhood, showing that they proliferate in the body over decades before cancer symptoms appear later in life.
The research, published in Nature, suggests that these mutations will cause blood cells to multiply at different rates in different people. Where mutations cause faster growth, cancer symptoms will appear earlier. If mutations proliferate slowly, however, it is possible that the cancer symptoms would never appear.
The findings suggest that some blood cancers are more of a gradual, lifelong process in which a single cell acquires a cancer-linked mutation early in life and then slowly grows over decades, compared to a mutation that happened only a few years prior to diagnosis.
In the future, it might be possible to detect cancer-warning signs earlier, potentially giving the opportunity to prevent or slow future cancer development.
Click here to read more about this research on the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute Website.