Cancer is a disease where some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Approximately 39.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and an estimate of cancer survivors in 2030 will be around 22.2 million – this study was done in 2020. In 2021 statistics showed that roughly one in every two people will get cancer in their lifetimes the biggest reason being that people are living longer lives, with the main range of people getting cancer being those over 70 years old. Recently the HSE – which is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It prevents work-related death, injury, and ill health – has “discovered genes that are specific to the most aggressive subtype of clear cell renal carcinoma”. Clear cell renal carcinoma or ccRCC is a type of kidney cancer. The kidneys cleanse the blood of toxins and change the waste into urine, the two kidneys together filter 200 liters of fluid every 24 hours – balancing the body’s fluids. ccRCC is a rare type of cancer where when one looks at the cells under the microscope the cells look clear. For adults, ccRCC is the most common type of kidney cancer and it is more common in adults than in children. ccRCC makes up between 2-6% of childhood and young adult kidney cancer cases. Patients who are diagnosed with ccRCC tend to have a worse prognosis than patients diagnosed with different subtypes of RCC “with 5-year disease-specific survival rates of 50-69%, compared with 67-87% for papillary RCC and 78-87% for chRCC“. This recent genetic discovery by Grigory Puzanov, a research fellow at the HSE Faculty of Computer Science International Laboratory of Bioinformatics, could change the clinical treatment course of ccRCC patients.
Puzanov analyzed data from 456 patients with the disease identifying cancer subtypes that have favorable or unfavorable prognoses. His study reveals the ccRCC subtypes that are more dangerous than others and what specific human genes appear responsible for the progression of the disease. The discovery of this is significant for the early detection of tumors and for designing a personal treatment for the patient – this is especially important because most patients are diagnosed after ccRCC has already advanced to later stages. The way that Puzanov analyzed the data from the 456 tumor samples was using the k-means method – where the algorithm randomly chooses a centroid for each cluster – to create subgroups with similar characteristics. Through this Puznov was able to select 2,000 genes with high “variable expression patterns in ccRCC“. Gene expression “is the appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene” which allows the gene to be read and copied producing RNA (which is then used to synthesize proteins). He ran this algorithm on each tumor 100 times based on the 2,000 subgroups he had found previously. There were multiple testing stages run during this research study, in the first stage, each subgroup’s characteristics were tested on how their genetic factors could influence the course of ccRCC. Then Puzanov identified the crucial genes in particular for high to low survival subgroups and created a system of interaction for “proteins whose synthesis is encoded by these genes”. From this, he determined which genes created the highest number of “network connections”. Some of the key genes they found were noticed to affect the anti-tumor therapies they were running on patients with ccRCC – like CP, FGA, and FGG genes – this can help doctors in the future choose better working treatments for patients with malignancies. In our biology class, we have gone over mRNA and what it does, and how it is vital for protein production. It carries information from the DNA in the cell’s nucleus to the cytoplasm. Since mRNA carries information scientists can use mRNA vaccines to treat diseases, it also allows researchers to create mRNA cancer vaccines that activate the immune system to attack cancer cells. The known research on mRNA and the new information found from Puzanov’s research is bringing cancer treatment further.