Scientists have discovered why some cancers are more deadly than others. By studying the genetic changes in kidney cancers, they found certain tumours are ‘born bad’, while others have a low risk of spreading and may not even require treatment.
‘Born to be bad’ tumours have extensive mutations and are likely to spread, while benign forms of the disease grow slowly and may require no intervention, a study found.
Intermediate tumours are expected to spread to just one other part of the body and respond to surgery, the research adds.
Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the ‘groundbreaking’ study could pave the way for personalised patient care.
Identifying cancer type could lead to personalised treatments
The research, published in three papers in the journal Cell, analysed kidney cancers in 100 patients.
The team, at the Francis Crick Institute, genetically mapped out the cancers’ histories from dozen of samples taken from different areas of the same tumour.
By working out how closely related the tumours are, they can tell how quickly the cancer is mutating and therefore how aggressive it may become.
Fast-growing tumours are likely to grow so quickly they will spread round the body before they are even detected.
This means surgery to remove the tumour could delay the use of chemotherapy drugs that slow the disease.
The researchers hope their findings will lead to a blood test that flags up an individuals’ cancer type and its likely outcome, which could open the door to personalised treatments.
How serious is kidney cancer?
Each year around 12,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer and 4,400 die from the disease.
Well-known sufferers of the disease in recent years include the broadcaster James Whale, who survived. Joan Collins’ former husband Anthony Newley died of the disease in 1999.
It is one of the fastest growing cancers in terms of incidence, with rates increasing by 50 per cent in the past decade.
Risk factors for kidney cancer include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and a family history of the disease.
Tell-tale symptoms include blood in the urine.