January 19, 2015 – Mutation Accretion


Anchor lead: What should we make of the bad luck factor in cancer? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Is the majority of cancer due to simple bad luck?  That’s one interpretation of a recent Johns Hopkins study published in the journal Science.  Cristian Tomasetti, one of the study’s authors, explains how the question of bad luck, or randomness, was addressed.

Tomasetti:  If in fact there was a very important random component, the more a tissue had stem cell division the more we should observe a higher risk of cancer risk in that type of tissue, and that basically is what we found.   :15

Tomasetti says when mutations occur in stem cells, the consequences can be dire.

Tomasetti: Mutations that take place in a stem cell that is going to stay if the stem cell progeny survives.   :05

Tomasetti notes that randomness, or bad luck, is a statistical concept that simply implies that some risk factors for cancer are outside of our control and are not due to environment or inheritance, at least as far as we know right now.  He adds that such an observation argues for early detection strategies for cancers of all types.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.