New Genetic Drivers for Cancer Discovered

Researchers created an algorithm that can discover how the immune system responds to cancer.

Researchers discovered more than 100 genetic regions that can affect how the immune system responds to cancer in a recent study.

“To develop immunotherapies that are relevant to a wide range of cancers, we need to know a lot more about how the immune system interacts with tumors,” said senior study author Adam Godzik, PhD. “Our study provides many new leads for this endeavor.”

A majority of current immunotherapies release the “brakes” on the immune system, which is only effective if the tumor can be recognized as a threat by the immune system, according to a study published by Cancer Immunology Research. However, some cancers are able to bypass this and prevent immune cells from penetrating the tumor.

"We are exploring cancer mutations at fine resolution by accounting for the fact that mutations can affect the encoded protein in different ways depending on where the resulting change is located," said lead author Eduard Porta-Pardo, Ph.D. "Our algorithm, domainXplorer, identifies correlations between a phenotype, in this case the amount of immune cells in the tumor, and mutations in individual protein domains, parts of a protein with distinct functions.”

Researchers used data from more than 5000 tumor samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas. They were able to find 122 possible immune response drivers among genetic regions where mutations correlate with immune cells, according to the study.

Many of the drivers are related to proteins with roles in the immune response, and others could potentially create novel immunotherapies.

"Our plan for the next phase of this research is to use this algorithm to search for genetic regions correlating with the levels of specific immune cell types within the tumor, which will reveal further details of cancer immunology,” the researchers concluded.