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Scientists believe that tumors up to DECADES give traceable ‘signals’ before they become cancer

Signs of cancer can sometimes appear for decades before the disease is diagnosed, scientists have discovered.

Researchers discovered that genetic mutations that feed the growth of tumors often occur years before the cancer is discovered.

One in five mutations can be considered as early events in the development of a tumor, which means that they can occur in childhood.

This suggests that children can someday be screened for genetic mutations to prevent them from getting sick.

Dangerous changes occurred ‘particularly early’ – up to 50 years earlier – in ovarian cancer.

It used to be called the “silent killer,” because it’s often too late by the time women notice symptoms such as bloating and loss of appetite.

The study looked at 47 million genetic changes in more than 2,500 human tumors, in 38 types of cancer.

The international team of researchers said it was “extraordinary” that some changes occurred years before diagnosis, even in tissue that seemed normal.

Signs of cancer can sometimes appear for decades before the disease is diagnosed, scientists have discovered (stock image)

Signs of cancer can sometimes appear for decades before the disease is diagnosed, scientists have discovered (stock image)

Dr. Peter Van Loo, from the Francis Crick Institute in London and one of the researchers involved in the Pan-Cancer project, said: ‘We have developed the first timelines of genetic mutations in the spectrum of cancer types.

‘We now know for more than 30 cancers which specific genetic changes are likely to occur and when they will likely occur.

“Unlocking these patterns means that it should now be possible to develop new diagnostic tests that pick up signs of cancer much earlier.”

“It’s science fiction right now, but you could consider detecting cancer in children someday and treating it by killing the problematic cells.”

Cancer occurs when errors or mutations are introduced into healthy cells as they grow and divide.

Although most of our cells do not change significantly, some are harmful and are associated with tumor growth.


Up to one in eight cancers can be caused by a virus, scientists said today.

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center have examined the DNA of more than 2,600 tumor samples from patients with 38 different types of cancer.

They discovered that 13 percent contained traces of viruses, according to the findings in Nature Genetics.

A total of 25 different virus types were found in 356 patients.

Viruses are already known to cause cancer directly or wrongly. For example, the HPV virus – transmitted through sex and close skin contact – causes nearly 100 percent of cervical cancer.

In the latest study, as suspected, the known viral pathogens that propelled tumors were also the most common:

About five percent of the cancer genomes examined contained Epstein-Barr viruses (EBV), which are known to cause a number of different cancers, in particular lymphomas and gastric and nasopharyngeal carcinomas.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) was found in 62 of the 330 cases of liver cancer. Human papillomaviruses, mostly HPV16, were found in 19 of 20 cervical cancers and 18 of 57 head and neck cancers.

Cancer occurs when errors or mutations are introduced into healthy cells as they grow and divide.

The researchers, led by Peter Lichter, said the viruses integrate into the host genome. They then cause mutations that make cells cancer.

These DNA errors continue to accumulate in cancer cells, so a tumor can ultimately consist of cells with many different genetic mutations.

It is thought that one in every two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, according to the NHS.

The most common types are breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer, but there are more than 200 in total.

Current guidelines advise people to check for lumps and bumps, unexplained bleeding, and bowel changes, as these may be early signs of cancer.

However, the latest research raises the possibility that people who are going to get cancer can be identified years in advance.

The researchers looked at how often a single change was replicated and copied to chromosomes.

These are known as “driver mutations”. They are among the billions of mutations that occur and cause cancer.

They could determine the order in which the mutations took place and the relative timing between them.

Just over 20 percent of the mutations were considered early events in the development of a tumor, with some of these changes taking place years, even decades, before the cancer was found.

Hazardous changes occurred ‘especially early’ in ovarian cancer, as well as two types of brain tumors, glioblastoma and medulloblastoma.

On average, ovarian cancer appeared to have started 10 to 20 years ago before women’s tumors were found and removed. But in one or two cases it seemed as if the cancer had started in women 40 to 50 years before their cancer started.

Alexandra Holden, communications director at Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “To get a crucial early diagnosis of ovarian cancer, women must currently know the symptoms, understand their family history, and see their doctor quickly.

“The ability to one day detect potential ovarian cancer in childhood will give thousands of people hope that we can beat this devastating disease in the future.”

Looking over the 28 cancers, the early mutations that seemed to drive them, mostly in nine genes, happened. This could make a treatment easier to find.

In addition to researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, 1,300 scientists from the Welcome Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute and the universities of Oxford, Glasgow and East Anglia were also involved.

Dr. Peter Campbell, of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and member of the Pan-Cancer project steering committee, said: “With sufficient studies, we can identify all these patterns to optimize diagnosis and treatment.”

Professor Karen Vousden, Chief Scientist at Cancer Research UK, said: “This large and ambitious project has yielded an enormous amount of data to help us better understand how cancer is developing.

“Cancer is a global problem and such international partnerships are vital to accelerate research.

“These findings show that, under the incredible complexity of cancer, there are a number of common genetic changes that turn healthy cells into cancer cells.

“This could someday be used to develop new ways to treat cancer or to detect it earlier, allowing more people to survive.”

The extensive analysis lasted ten years and is detailed in six articles published in Nature. It is part of a broader collection of 22 articles published in other Nature Research journals.

In a separate article, the international team also discovered that cancers probably have many different mutations that come into their DNA at the same time.

For example, 22 percent of the 2500 tumors examined experienced an event called chromothripsis, in which a DNA strand breaks in many places at the same time and the pieces are rearranged incorrectly.

This process proved to be an important and critically early event in the evolution of most cancers, especially in melanomas.

According to Cancer Research UK, around 363,000 new cancer cases are reported every year in the UK, with the disease causing 165,000 deaths each year.

WHAT IS A GLIOBLASTOMA AND HOW IS IT DEADLY? THE Aggressive brain tumor that John MCCAIN suffered from

Senator John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July 2017

Senator John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July 2017

Senator John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July 2017

Glioblastoma is considered the most aggressive tumor that can form in the brain. Senator John McCain was diagnosed with one in July 2017.

Patients have a 10 percent chance of surviving five years after their diagnosis, according to figures. The average lifespan is between 14 and 16 months.

Three adults per every 100,000 will be affected by a glioblastoma, says the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).

It is usually found in men aged 50 to 60 and there is no connection between the development of glioblastoma and having a history with other cancers.

What is the tumor made of?

The tumor consists of a mass of cells that grow rapidly in the brain, and in most cases, patients do not have a family history of the disease.

It will not spread to other organs, but once it is diagnosed, it is almost impossible to target, claim surgeons.

Unlike other types of brain cancer that are more specifically located, glioblastoma can occur in any part of the brain.


Because the tumor is probably already spread deep into the brain by the time it is diagnosed, the cancer tissue is incredibly difficult to remove.

Surgeon will only remove the tumor, or a part of the tumor, if it does not damage the surrounding brain tissue.

Dr. Babcar Cisse, a neurosurgeon at the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, told Daily Mail Online in July 2017: “By the time a glioblastoma is diagnosed, microfiber can spread to the rest of the brain that an MRI would not see.

“So even if the main tumor is removed and the patient receives radiation and chemotherapy, it will come back.”


Brain tumors are sorted from one to four, depending on how fast they grow and how aggressive they are.

Malignant tumors get either a high grade three or four, while benign tumors get a lower grade one or two.

Glioblastoma is often called a grade four astrocytoma – another form of brain tumor, the AANS says.


Patients usually complain about symptoms such as confused vision, memory problems, dizziness and headache.

The symptoms are somewhat non-specific and vary from person to person, and cannot persist.

The disease is therefore impossible to diagnose based on symptoms alone.