'Big Data' used to identify new cancer driver genes

'Big Data' used to identify new cancer driver genes

Cancer is caused by the accumulation of mutations to DNA. Until now, scientists have focused on finding alterations in individual genes and cell pathways that can lead to cancer. 

Researchers have combined two publicly available 'omics' databases to create a new catalogue of 'cancer drivers'. Cancer drivers are genes that when altered, are responsible for cancer progression. The researchers used cancer mutation and protein structure databases to identify mutations in patient tumors that alter normal protein-protein interaction (PPI) interfaces.

The study, published in PLoS Computational Biology, identified more than 100 novel cancer driver genes and helps explain how tumors driven by the same gene may lead to different patient outcomes.

 "We found 71 interfaces in proteins previously unrecognized as cancer drivers, representing potential new cancer predictive markers and/or drug targets. Our analysis also identified several driver interfaces in known cancer genes, such as TP53, HRAS, PI3KCA and EGFR, proving that our method can find relevant cancer driver genes and that alterations in protein interfaces are a common pathogenic mechanism of cancer."said the author.