Two groups of scientists have discovered that some people posses markers in their blood which depict an increased risk for having blood cancers such as myelodyplastic syndrome, lymphoma and leukemia. The indicator is called somatic mutations, that do not have presence at birth but develop as a person starts aging.
The researchers found that people whose DNA blood samples have mutation tend to have more chance of developing blood cancer within five years after testing. The mutation is presumed to be originated in the blood stem cells which in turn produce the mutated blood cells. They, in turn, reproduce at high rates, making up a large percentage of the blood cells.
“Cancer is the end-stage of the process,” states Siddhartha Jaiswal, from Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the first study ‘Age-Related Clonal Hematopoiesis Associated with Adverse Outcomes,’ that was shown in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
“By the time a cancer has become clinically detectable it has accumulated several mutations that have evolved over many years. What we are primarily detecting here is an early, pre-malignant stage in which the cells have acquired just one initiating mutation.”
Jaiswal along with her colleagues had a look at the 160 genes which are mutated persitently in malignancies in the blood and discovered that the presence of somatic mutation boosts a person’s risk of developing cancer. Furthermore, they also noticed that the mutation is associated with higher risks of other disease types such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and ischemic stoke. However, further research is still required.
In a different study, tests were being conducted on the study of another disease by Steven McCarroll from the Harvard Medical School and his colleagues. During the early hours they were focusing on finding out if the risk of schizophrenia is influenced by mutations. Through tracking of medical histories of the subjects, it was discovered that 13 times increased risk for blood cancer was found in those with mutated blood cells.
“A subset of the genes that are mutated in patients with myeloid cancers is frequently mutated in apparently healthy persons; these mutations may represent characteristic early events in the development of hematologic cancers,” McCarroll and colleagues wrote in their study published in NEJM on Nov. 26.