Cancer patients are likely to benefit from more targeted treatments following work that has increased the number of identifiable cancer genome signatures to 97.

The result of a landmark international study published in Nature this month, identification of the new genome signatures is attributed to the work of over 700 scientists involved in the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium, who have interpreted the complete DNA sequence (or cancer genomes) of 2,658 cancer specimens from patients in Europe, North America and Australasia.

In-depth analysis of the mutation signatures of different cancer types has been made possible with advances in technology that have improved our ability to accurately and completely sequence whole cancer genomes but the real step forwards in these reports are about improvements in the analysis of the sequencing data.

“This work substantially increases our understanding of the diversity of DNA mutations and mutation signatures within cancer genomes,” said MPCCC Research Director and Chair of Precision Medicine at Monash University, Professor Melissa Southey.

“The research has also shown that similar mutation signatures are present in cancers that arise in different tissues. This has implications for cancer treatment. For example, a drug successfully used to treat a breast cancer may be as effective for treating a pancreatic cancer if the two cancers share the same mutation signature,” Professor Southey said.

The results coincide with MPCCC’s Precision Oncology Program enabling access to affordable cancer DNA sequencing for cancer patients across south-eastern Victoria through the Australian Cancer Genome Medicine Centre.

“Gene sequencing is most commonly offered to patients with rare cancers where standard treatments are not available, and subtypes of more common cancers are also identified through this approach,” said Professor Mark Shackleton, Clinical Lead of the Precision Oncology Program, Professor Director of Oncology at Alfred Health and Monash University.

“Understanding the genetic signature of cancers can inform clinicians about which treatments might be effective for these patients. As our understanding of cancer mutation signatures advances, gene sequencing moves closer to becoming a standard of care for many cancer patients,” Professor Shackleton said.

The MPCCC Precision Oncology Program is supported by the Victorian Government. For more information about access to sequencing, contact Vikki Marshall on