Your body is made of two cell types, germ cells and somatic cells.
Germ cells, are the reproductive cells of our bodies, sperm for males and eggs for females. The genetic information within the germ cells, is transferred to the offspring with 50% of the information provided by the father, and 50% by the mother. The child will then have its own germ cells that it will pass on to create new offspring.
Somatic cells make up the rest of our bodies. Cells that develop into your hair, eyes, brain, and lungs are all somatic cells.
Germ cells transfer genetic information from parent to child. If there is a mutation present in a germ cell, there is a possibility that the offspring will get the mutation. Germline mutations are better known as inherited genetic disorders, like, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and color blindness. Inherited genetic mutations can also play a role in developing cancer. Mutations in specific genes can predispose an individual to developing certain cancers like hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. It is important to understand, not everyone who inherits these specific gene mutations will necessarily develop cancer, but they may have a higher risk of cancer occurring. These mutations don’t necessarily predict that a specific cancer will develop, but are used to gauge cancer risk.
Most cancers are caused by somatic cell mutations. Somatic mutations can be triggered by environmental factors like exposure to carcinogens such as UV radiation or cigarette smoke, or any errors that modify the DNA of the cell as it replicates and divides. Somatic cells do not transfer genetic information to offspring, so the acquired mutations in somatic cells cannot be passed down from parent to child.
What is important to understand for your cancer, is where the mutation has manifested in the somatic cells that make up your tumor. With our precision testing, Caris is able to analyze biomarkers in your tumor that will aid your doctor to optimize treatment decisions and cater therapies specific to you. Talk to your doctor about testing for your specific tumor and not just inherited mutations.
The Central Principles of Molecular Biology video series is meant to help explain molecular profiling and cancer, so that you can understand how Caris molecular profiling helps fight cancer through precision oncology.