Prostate Cancers Linked to Radiation Exposure Carry Mutation Signatures, Study Finds

Prostate Cancers Linked to Radiation Exposure Carry Mutation Signatures, Study Finds
Researchers exploring genetic changes caused by ionizing radiation were able, possibly for a first time, to identify characteristic patterns of DNA mutations in prostate cancer. These patterns may help physicians in identifying tumors caused by exposure to radiation, and in determining if particular treatments are suitable for them. The study, “Mutational signatures of ionizing radiation in second malignancies,” published in the journal Nature Communications, will also help scientists in studying how ionizing radiation causes cancer. Ionizing radiation is present in X-rays, gamma-rays, and radioactive particles, and researchers have long known that exposure to such radiation can damage DNA and cause cancer. Despite this, scientists do not know how the DNA damage leads to cancer, or even how many cancers are caused by this type of radiation. Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute knew that other types of DNA damage, linked to cancer, lead to characteristic molecular changes — so-called mutational signatures. To explore if ionizing radiation also gives rise to such signatures, they studied the genes in tumor tissue from 12 patients with secondary cancers caused by radiation exposure. They compared these tumors to those of 319 patients who had not been exposed to radiation, and discovered two DNA changes that were typical of the irradiated tissue and did not depend on the type of cancer: one mutation signature was an enrichment in small deletions, where some nucleotides are cut from the DNA; the second was an enr
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