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No Two Alike

Highly sensitive DNA sequencing reveals complexity of bowel cancer evolution

10 July 2020

No Two Alike

For more than a century, scientists have been trying to understand what drives cancer. Today, we know that it’s a disease underpinned by genetic changes (mutations) that cause cells to grow out of control, eventually forming a tumour. Highly sensitive DNA sequencing technology means that we can now look in depth at the mutations in ever smaller pieces from individual tumours – and the more we discover, the more complicated it gets. These images are visual representations of detailed DNA sequencing of small pieces of individual bowel tumours, with groups of cells (clones) carrying particular patterns of mutations highlighted in different colours. The results show that no two cancers are the same, and that there’s huge variation in how these clones grow and the mutations within them. This means that each patient needs a personalised approach to treatment, rather than one-size-fits-all therapy, in order to get the best outcome.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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