A thousand scientists from one hundred international research groups working over four years. Thirteen papers spread across five journals. DNA analysis of two hundred thousand people. And eighty new genetic variations, or SNPs (pronounced “snips”) linked to three different types of cancer, doubling the current total known about so far.
These are impressive, big figures from an equally impressive, big piece of science, which Cancer Research UK helped to fund (here’s the press release). But what does it all mean?
To find out, we spoke to Professor Doug Easton from the University of Cambridge, one of the leaders of the project.
Cancer Research UK: What exactly are SNPs?
Prof Easton: SNP stands for “single nucleotide polymorphism”, and it’s a single ‘letter’ difference in the DNA between individuals. Your DNA is made up of around 3 billion of these ‘letters’ – there are four possible letters you can have: A, C, T and G – so a SNP is just a single place in your genome where you might have one particular letter, and someone else has a different one.
To explain a bit more about SNPs and what they do, have a look at this short animation: