In a discovery that could offer a new method for combating aggressive cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered a separate group of metastases that lead to recurrence of cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow.

The findings from a joint UNSW engineering study and a Cancer and Blood Safety Research Unit at the University of Manchester are part of the Breakthrough Prize which is supporting research that aims to save more lives from one of the most aggressive types of cancer.

Keys to ruling out relapse after cancer.

Lead researcher Ben Fox said there was already evidence that the genetic mutations that cause cancer are not unpredictable and that some cancers such as bladder cancer or ovarian cancer are particularly dangerous to start with.

We knew that there is so much DNA damage in these cancers the mutations really arent unpredictable and its going to happen again so thats kind of why we looked at the issue of recurrence a bit more carefully Fox said.

We dont really know what the different metastases are that drive recurrence in such a common type of cancer so we didnt want a simple answer from a simple biology question.

The team collaborated with a group of scientists from Broad Cancer Centres to use single-cell expression of DNA repair genes to reveal the different genes that are implicated in determining cancer cell viability.

What we found using this approach is that the DNA repair genes that are involved in reducing cell survival were donated by patients that had undergone surgery which is a common type of cancer for both genders and this data was collected before the advent of the genetic testing approach so its a really really good indication Fox said.

In the scale of drug and gene therapy breakthroughs this particular discovery has potentially broad implications for many cancers it appears.

We hope that research focusing on the DNA repair genes will encourage patients to have further surgery which also requires a lower dose of drug and could hopefully prevent the recurrence of these tumors for other patients diagnosed by genetic testing Fox said.

The work also brings research in potential cancer treatments into sharper focus Fox said.

Weve got this novel strategy for bypassing many of the 1976 gaps in current cancer therapy he said.

We have the tools to use in cancer and weve also got the patient bases where we can use the DNA repair genes and restore HIV levels and are using clinical trial-like data to validate these approaches as potential new treatment approaches.

The findings suggest a number of key insights into the ongoing fight against aggressive cancers.

There are quite a few drug therapies currently being developed that deliberately target replication (specifically in cancer cells) which has had a bit of a therapeutic benefit for cancers but unfortunately production returns back to the same level as it was in the late 60s with the advent of new DNA hardware like CRISPR Fox said.

Even in placentas weve got work being done to get blood cell transplantation into the blood stream and return to the same high levels and then mitochondrial rates to normal levels which is unheard of in pregnant women or normal for a parent. Its very difficult with cells that havent been treated adequately inside and wanting to transplant into the testicular system.