What is cancer ?
Cancer is one of the most insidious diseases. It is caused by certain changes in the DNA of somatic and sometimes germ cells that lead to their transformation, rapid growth and progression into benign and cancerous tumors. Currently, there are more than 200 types of cancers known to medical professionals.
Why does cancer develop ?
There are two main categories of genes that contribute to the emergence of cancers. One category is called the proto-oncogenes: that is, genes that usually control cell division, cell differentiation, and cell death. If these genes acquire certain types of activating mutations, they become oncogenes: that is, genes that drive the transformation of normal cells to cancerous ones. Another category of genes called tumor suppressors serve the roles as principal checks and balances inside the cell. When certain types of mutations are acquired in tumor suppressor genes, normal checks and balances inside cells are disrupted and cells thereby transform and progress into becoming cancerous.
Mutations in both categories of genes occur in somatic cells and sometimes in germ cells, and if such mutated cells are not destroyed by the immune surveillance, they begin to acquire a number of features that are unique to cancerous cells. These features are referred to as the hallmarks of cancer, and examples include:
- The ability to uncontrollably grow and rapidly divide;
- Admixture evidence of un-differentiated cells within the tissue mass;
- Perturbed cell-to-cell communication;
- Neo-angiogenesis (that is, ability to generate their new blood vessels);
- Ability to evade immune surveillance;
- Changes in bioenergetics leading to high glucose consumption;
- Local and distal metastasis (that is, cancerous cells invade surrounding tissues as well as travel distally via the blood stream giving rise to new lesions in other organs);
- Stimulation and maintenance of inflammation;
- Genomic instability and heterogeneity (that is, cancerous cells evolve and accumulate mutations after each cell division, leading to vast amounts of genome instability and heterogeneity: meaning large cohorts of cancerous cells within the same tumor are not genetically identical).
Because of the complexity in genetic diversity as well as in the cell types that can progress into becoming cancerous, it is difficult to utilize universally successful approaches to treat and diagnose cancer. Usually, patients are stratified based on the type of the cancer and its pathological gradation before administering certain types of cancer treatment modalities, including: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
The advent of modern genome medicine, precision medicine, DNA testing / genetic testing and “omics” technologies have revolutionized the approaches of how we currently diagnose, monitor and treat cancers. It has led to an approach known as “personalized and precision medicine” or PPM, which is much more effective in clinically managing cancer. Genetic testing labs such as CEN4GEN, play a crucial role in the application of this approach.
One of the important components of PPM is the use of DNA testing / genetic testing for:
- Determination of cancer predisposition / cancer risk by testing for hereditary cancer markers;
- Early cancer detection and diagnosis with the use of liquid biopsies and cancer markers;
- Genetic profiling of tumors / cancers for establishing individualized or personalized therapy.
What is Cancer Genetic testing / Cancer DNA testing for determining your cancer risk or cancer predisposition ?
Cancer is a relatively common disease. Depending on the cancer type, it progressively develops as the mechanisms of cell regulation, cell repair and immune surveillance fail with age. The likelihood of developing cancer also increases with certain lifestyle choices, diet, physical trauma and environmental toxicity exposure. Sometimes people succumb to cancer at a much earlier age. Often, individuals have a family history of cancer(s). These individuals are more likely to have hereditary cancer syndromes, in which DNA testing services / genetic testing services offered by DNA testing companies / genetic testing companies, including CEN4GEN, can vastly help in the early detection of cancer risk or cancer predisposition; thereby contributing to the early diagnosis and even prevention of the onset of cancer. There are more than 30 hereditary cancer syndromes. Many genetic testing companies / DNA testing companies such as CEN4GEN, use specific genetic testing panels to screen for genes associated with particular hereditary cancer syndromes.
One of the most well-known hereditary cancer syndromes is the hereditary breast and ovarian syndrome, or HBOC. This syndrome is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, as well as other types of cancers such as pancreatic, prostate and melanoma. Both men and women are at risk if they are carriers of relevant disease causing mutations. This hereditary cancer is most often associated with mutations in two genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2; but disease causing mutations are also present in other less common genes. Genetic testing panels for the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome screen for disease causing genes that are associated with this cancer syndrome. In general, patients and their family members are advised to undergo DNA testing / genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome if a few of the below criteria are evident:
- Breast / ovarian cancer in the patient is diagnosed before the age of 50 years;
- There are relatives in the family diagnosed with breast and/or ovarian cancer, especially before 50-60 years of age;
- The patient or a relative has male breast cancer;
- Both breasts are affected with cancer;
- The patient has an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry;
- The patient has or relatives in the family have breast cancer co-morbid with another type of cancer such as prostate or pancreatic.
Many DNA testing organizations / genetic testing organizations such as CEN4GEN, offer cancer DNA testing services / cancer genetic testing services for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.
Another common type of hereditary cancer in the population is Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer. Lynch syndrome is a hereditary condition that leads to an increased risk for cancer of the colon and rectum (colorectal cancer), as well as cancer of the stomach and intestine. It is also associated with ovarian and endometrial cancers in women. There are several genes that are associated with this hereditary cancer syndrome, including the: MLH1, MSH2, MLH6, PMS2, and EPCAM genes. Many DNA testing organizations / genetic testing organizations, such as CEN4GEN, offer cancer DNA testing services / cancer genetic testing services for Lynch syndrome.
Hereditary prostate cancer is another common type of cancer in the population. If a person has more than three relatives in the immediate family affected by prostate cancer, prostate cancer has been diagnosed in relatives within three successive generations, or there are at least two men within the family diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 55 years, it may suggest that hereditary prostate cancer is imminent in the family. There are a number of genes associated with hereditary prostate cancer, including ELAC2, MSMB, MSR1 and RNASEL. Many DNA testing organizations / genetic testing organizations, such as CEN4GEN, offer cancer DNA testing services / cancer genetic testing services for hereditary prostate cancer. If a person has a mutation in the mentioned above genes, usually regular testing for the prostate specific antigen and regular check-ups with your urologist are advised for the early detection, diagnosis and prevention of prostate cancer.
It should be noted that if the DNA testing / genetic testing results identify the presence of a disease causing mutation in a person who is not currently affected by cancer, it does not necessarily mean that this person would definitely develop cancer later in life. There may be other underlying genetic, lifestyle, dietary and environmental factors which could modify the onset of cancer. The patient in question is usually advised to undergo counseling in order to discuss suitable options for early cancer detection, early diagnosis and early prevention. Overall, DNA testing labs / genetic testing labs, such as CEN4GEN, can help identify whether an individual is at risk for cancer or cancer predisposition, and the results from such genetic testing services / DNA testing services help to establish a personalized or individualized approach towards patient care and monitoring.
What is Liquid biopsy for cancer ?
Cutting edge cancer precision medicine technologies and strategies are imperative for better / more successful cancer detection, monitoring and treatment. This modern method is useful for individuals with or without having a pre-existing hereditary cancer syndrome, and within the context of administering clinical management for cancer. Unfortunately, early tumors are too small to be detected by current imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Sometimes, micrometastases can develop, for instance after the surgery on the primary tumor. Tumors are known to release disseminated cancer cells (DTCs) or circulating cancer cells (CTCs) that can be detected in the bone marrow, blood stream and lymph nodes which can be harvested for DNA testing / genetic testing analysis. This process is referred to as a liquid biopsy for cancer.
DNA testing organizations / genetic testing organizations, such as CEN4GEN, offer cancer precision DNA testing services / cancer precision genetic testing services. Such services offer several cutting edge cancer precision medicine approaches for cancer patients, including:
- Establishing a diagnosis, such as tumor classification and gradation;
- Monitoring metastases;
- Monitoring the response to therapy;
- Elucidating the DNA or genetic profile of the tumor / cancer to establish a cost effective and personalized efficacious therapy.
If you currently have cancer or you want to determine if you are at risk for developing cancer, to learn more about how CEN4GEN cancer precision medicine / cancer genetic testing options can suit your needs, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and a representative will guide you through the testing process and provide more information for you and your healthcare provider. CEN4GEN is a DNA testing company / DNA testing organization / Genetic testing company / Genetic testing organization offering affordable DNA testing services / Genetic testing services in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.