Chromosomes and Cancer

Two new papers identify how abnormal chromosome count, or aneuploidy, might relate to cancer.

Jef Akst

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Aneuploidy—when the cells of an organism contain more or fewer than the standard number of chromosomes for its species—is found in greater than 90 percent of all human cancers. But how exactly it relates to cancer, and whether it is a cause or merely a consequence of genomic instability, has long been a mystery. Two new studies published today (August 18) in Science show that it’s probably both, pointing to a gene defect that can cause aneuploidy, and elucidating the disastrous effects of aneuploidy on a cell’s genome.

“Aneuploidy is found in virtually all cancers, yet very little is known about its origins or its effects,” said a cancer biologist Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who was not involved in the research. “These two papers provide some really excellent clues to what’s going on.”

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