The APOBEC family of genes control enzymes that are believed to have evolved in humans to fight off viral infections. Scientists have speculated that these enzymes are responsible for a very distinct signature of mutations that is present in approximately half of all cancer types. Therefore, understanding the cancer-causing process behind this common genetic signature is pivotal for disease control and prevention.
The team studied the genomes of breast cancers in patients with a specific inherited deletion in two of these APOBEC genes. They found that these cancer genomes had a much greater prevalence of the distinct mutational signature that is thought to be driven by the APOBEC family of genes.