Research led by Lund University in Sweden has mapped out the genome of cancer cells from over 50 tumours from patients with Wilms tumour, neuroblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. It has identified that cancer cells in children develop by following four strategies which can occur simultaneously in a single tumour. But to counteract the body’s defence systems and cancer treatments, the genome of cancer cells can multiply and mutate, forming new tumour cells called clones.
Clones respond to cancer treatment in different ways, and a single tumour can have many different clones within it, which might all develop cancer differently. Jenny Karlsson at Lund University, one of the researchers behind the study said: "We wanted to learn more about how some tumours evade treatment and the strategies the cancer cells develop"
“Research led by Lund University in Sweden has identified that cancer cells in children develop by following four strategies which can occur simultaneously in a single tumour“
The researchers tracked the types of mutations that created the four main survival strategies: tolerance, coexistence, competition and chaos. Professor David Gisselsson Nord, who led the study said: "The strategies are key as they give us an indication of the evolutionary capacity a tumour has at the time of discovery. Patients with the first two variants generally have good outcomes, while the latter two strategies are associated with risk of relapse. The same two strategies were found when we analysed relapse tumours. It seems that some cancer cells are programmed from the outset to single-handedly create a relapse. Relapsed tumours hade genomes that were often radically altered compared to the patient's first tumour. We conclude that the first tumour should not be used as a proxy to predict targeted treatment in case of a relapse. A new biopsy is well warranted. The genome of the tumour usually changes over time. If we knew more about how the environment in the patient's tissues triggers cancer cells to develop, we could also influence how they change during treatment and perhaps prevent a relapse. We are now applying for funding to conduct such studies and to evaluate, in a major study, whether the four strategies can really be used in the clinic"