Uncovering the human foetal origin of childhood cancer

Year of award: 2021


  • Dr Sam Behjati

    Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, United Kingdom

Project summary

BACKGROUND Childhood cancers are widely thought to arise before birth, during foetal life. If we understood when and how precisely they formed, we might be able to develop novel treatments that target this foetal root of childhood cancers. My research goal therefore is to obtain a precise understanding of the origins of different types of childhood cancer. APPROACH My approach is to build "family trees" of tumours and normal tissues to find the origin of tumours. These trees are based on mutational barcodes (changes in the DNA code) that arise when cells divide. Once the root is identified, I will study molecular changes that differentiate normal, pre-cancer, and cancerous tissues. EXPECTED IMPACT I expect that my work will reveal the origin of childhood tumour formation, as a basis for novel treatment approaches. Furthermore, my work hopefully will layout a blueprint that is applicable to the entire spectrum of childhood cancers.