Mimi McCord, Founder and Chairman of Heartburn Cancer UK, is currently involved as one of the patient advocates in this Mimi McCord headshotfascinating international project, funded by Cancer Research UK and involving 5000 patients across five continents. 

Researchers in The Mutograph Project are collecting cells from people affected by five different forms of cancer; Bowel (also known as colorectal), pancreas, kidney, oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.  They will compare the DNA in the cancer cells to the DNA from cells taken from blood to find out if there are any differences between them and will ask participants to fill in a questionnaire that gives detailed information about their lifestyle and the environment that they live in.

DNA from the cancer cells donated by participants will be examined to find out if they contain certain signatures. Researchers will then investigate whether certain factors that they suspect might cause cancer are linked to the presence of these signatures.  It is hoped that the project will advance our understanding of what causes cancer by identifying what factors are creating these distinctive DNA signatures.

Some of the things being studied include:

  • Establishing why some cancer types are more common in certain areas of the world
  • Looking at whether it is possible to create a catalogue of what DNA signatures are caused by specific cancer-causing agents
  • Establishing whether it might be possible to use DNA signatures as a signal that healthy cells are more likely to develop cancer

As patient advocates, Mimi and Maggie, who is the founder of the Pancreatic cancer Research Fund, are involved to ensure that the project takes account of the views of patients and the public. They visit researchers, people affected by cancer and medical centres participating in the project, to explore ways of improving the patients’ experiences of cancer research. Their work will also help to influence future research directions.

More detailed information is available at www.mutographs.org where there is also a blog which follows the project’s progress.  You can also read more about the project in the Connecting Science newsletter