UC Davis Researchers Unlock the Genetics of Cancer to Advance the Future of Personalized Medicine
by David Slipher on September 17, 2018 in Human & Animal Health
FOR MANY, BREAST CANCER IS MORE than just a disease – it’s personal. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. But through new discoveries at the genetic level, the personal nature of cancer will eventually be what helps to beat it.
DNA repair – key defense against mutations
A healthy individual has a system of checks and balances that curtail cells’ irregular growth. But changes occurring during a person’s lifetime, including inherited changes and those induced by environmental exposure, alter the body’s normal blueprint and cause cancer.
“One key to understanding cancer lies in the stability of the genome,” says Distinguished Professor Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics chair and co-leader of the Molecular Oncology Program at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Many genes, as part of regular maintenance within the body, are responsible for repairing damaged DNA. Through a process called homologous recombination, information from healthy DNA molecules is used as a template to heal broken DNA strands.
“Recombination works like accessing a backup version when a file on your computer is compromised,” Heyer says. “Referencing this genetic backup copy enables high-fidelity DNA repair.”