The existence of a cancer inducing DNA re-alignment in stem cells taken from human prostate cancers has been identified by researchers.
Professor Norman Maitland, Director of the YCR Cancer Research Unit, University of York, said that this discovery has marked a fundamental shift in our understanding of how solid cancers start.
He asserted that in blood cancers like leukaemia, DNA is rearranged during an event known as chromosomal translocation, which results in a mutant protein that drives cancer progression.
Maitland's team has found these genetic accidents in prostate cancer stem cells and have shown that they result in a specific cancer-associated gene within the cells called ERG being inappropriately activated.
It is believed that this activation triggers the stem cells to renew more often.
Maitland said that the cells become selfish by surviving outside normal controls that exist in the prostate and thrive at the expense of their neighbours, ensuring that the genetic accident becomes permanent and passed from generation to generation.
He added that this process appears to be essential for the initiation of prostate cancer.
The study has been published in Nature Communications.