Nat. Genet. 51, 1732–1740 (2019)

Cancer therapies damage both cancerous tissues and healthy tissues, and the mutational signatures unique to each therapy informs understanding of their long-term side effects.

The DNA-damaging chemotherapies used as standard of care for most cancers are highly toxic and have serious long-term and delayed side effects. However, the burden of mutation induced by each therapy and how these unique signatures might influence adverse effects have not yet been explored in detail.

A group of European researchers analyzed data from 3,506 metastatic tumors treated with six anticancer agents: five chemotherapies and one radiotherapy. They developed a new analytical approach for identifying mutational signatures attributable to specific therapies and were able to predict the burden of these therapies, which in the future may be used to inform clinicians.