Unique mutations were found during the sequencing of Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma. A total of 70 mutations were found when a Burkitt tumour was mapped by scientists at Duke Medicine.
Several of these mutations had not previously been associated with cancer and a new one that was unique to the disease.
The researchers reported striking differences in the gene mutation patterns of Burkitt lymphomas vs. the diffuse large B cell lymphomas.
“It’s important that doctors make the right diagnosis for Burkitt lymphoma, which can be cured with the correct therapies,” said Sandeep S. Dave, M.D., MBA, MS, associate professor at Duke and senior author of the study.. “But if misdiagnosed and given the standard chemotherapy regimes for diffuse large B cell lymphomas, Burkitt lymphoma patients invariably relapse.”
The analysis identified 70 genes that were frequently mutated in the Burkitt lymphomas, including a number of genes that were identified in cancer for the first time. One of the newly identified gene mutations, ID3, appeared in 34 percent of the Burkitt cases, but was not evident in any of the diffuse large B cell lymphomas. The mutation has a silencing effect on a gene that suppresses cell growth, enabling cells to multiply. Dave said this alteration alone may not cause cancer, but when it occurs along with the MYC gene mutations that are common in Burkitt lymphoma and other malignancies, it works like an accelerant to fuel tumor growth. That finding could prove helpful for developing a new drug to function like a normal ID3 gene and suppress cancer cell proliferation in lymphomas as well as numerous other cancers.
The findings were published online in the journal Nature Genetics.