British scientists have worked out how many changes it takes to transform a healthy cell into a cancer.

Date: Oct 19, 2017

Source: BBC Health News

Author: James Gallagher


The researchers analysed the DNA from 7,664 tumours to find “driver mutations” that allow a cell to be more selfish, aggressive and cancerous.

They showed it could take:

  • just one mutation to drive thyroid and testicular cancers
  • four mutations to make a breast or liver cancer
  • 10 mutations to create a colorectal cancer.

Dr Peter Campbell, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: “We’ve known about the genetic basis of cancer for many decades now, but how many mutations are responsible has been incredibly hotly debated.

“What we’ve been able to do in this study is really provide the first unbiased numbers.

“And it seems that of the thousands of mutations in a cancer genome, only a small handful are responsible for dictating the way the cell behaves, what makes it cancerous.”