Hidden signs in cancer tissue
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IMAGE: ETH researchers discovered thousands of unknown splicing variants of RNA molecules in cancer patients. view more 

Credit: ETH Zurich

A research team led by Gunnar Raetsch, Professor of Biomedical Informatics at ETH Zurich, has evaluated the largest set of genetic data in cancer medicine: The Cancer Genome Atlas in the United States (see box). The Atlas compiles genetic information on tumor cells from several thousand cancer patients and 33 types of cancer at DNA and RNA level. Through their analysis, the ETH scientists have discovered new cancer-specific molecular changes that could potentially inform the development of cancer treatments.

Many previous genetic analyses of cancer cells have concentrated on their DNA – the “basic” version of the genetic information, so to speak. Such studies examined genes to see if they contained tumor-specific mutations. In addition, it was studied if the genes were especially active or inactive depending on the tumor.

Now the ETH researchers have gone a step further and taken a closer look at the RNA molecules, which are responsible for transcribing the cell’s DNA. But before these molecules can serve as a blueprint for the biosynthesis of proteins, they undergo a series of transformative cellular processes: in

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