Henry Winter
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Sutton scientists look to our ‘unique’ genes to find cancer susceptibility

Henry Winter
Posted by
12 Sep 2012

A team of scientists in Sutton are advancing the battle against cancer by looking at how tiny differences in our genes can make some people more likely to develop multiple myeloma.

Professor Richard Houlston and his team at the Institute of Cancer Research will conduct the research which aims to find ways to target the causes of myeloma to stop the cancer in its tracks.  The blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research has awarded the team a grant in excess of £220,000 to support the project. 

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow.  There are 3,750 new cases of myeloma every year in the UK, predominantly affecting those over 65 years old.  This presents an issue, as the more intensive and high-dose treatments that most successfully treat myeloma are often unsuitable for use in older patients.  

The team have already discovered that there are certain genetic variations, among the many differences in our genes that make us unique, that put people ‘at a greater risk’ of developing myeloma although not all go on to get the disease.

The team have already discovered the genetic factors linked to myeloma by comparing the DNA of people with and without the blood cancer thereby finding the tiny genetic differences that are present in those with the cancer and absent in those without cancer.  The team now want to establish how the genetic factors operate in causing myeloma. 

Professor Houlston, head of the team at the Institute of Cancer Research, said:  “Having found the genetic factors that are linked to developing myeloma, we are now keen to discover how these act to cause the cancer.  We hope that in researching this we will discover new targets for drug treatments that could improve the treatment of myeloma.”

Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said:  “The need for suitable treatments for older myeloma patients is significant and it is hoped that this research will be successful in addressing this.”