‘Bond villain’ DNA could transform cancer treatment, scientists say

Scientists have pinpointed pieces of DNA which, they say, act like Bond villains in the way they help cancers spread. These microscopic agents have also been shown to be responsible for helping tumours gain resistance to anti-cancer drugs.

The discovery of these bits of genetic material – known as extrachromosomal DNA or ecDNA – could revolutionise the treatments of some of the most aggressive tumours that affect people today, add the researchers.

“The discovery of how these bits of DNA behave inside our bodies is a gamechanger,” said Professor Paul Mischel of California’s Stanford university, one of the leaders of the programme. “We believe they are responsible for a large number of the more advanced, most serious cancers affecting people today. If we can block their activities, we can block the spread of these cancers.”

Made up of tiny loops of DNA, these genetic villains survive outside the chromosomes which are our cells’ main repositories of genetic material and which direct the growth of our bodies and determine our individual characteristics. The existence of these smaller units was revealed years ago but their importance in cancer has only now been uncovered….