In a review in Nature, Michael Stratton and colleagues look back at the achievements of cancer genomics, and forward to the prospect that the complete DNA sequencing of large numbers of cancers will help us move towards a deeper understanding of how to treat cancers.
Since the discovery in 1982 of the link between HRAS gene mutations and bladder cancer, many more abnormal genes have been identified in cancer patients. As a result much has been learned about the development of cancer, but with so many distinct cancer and tissue types there is much more to be learned, argue the authors.
Genomicists aim to provide a comprehensive catalogue of acquired mutations in at least 50 classes of cancer, including those with the highest global incidence and mortality. This proposal has generated controversy reminiscent of the debate before sequencing of the human genome almost 20 years ago. However, the information gained is likely to have a huge impact on drug development and clinical practice, seeing a move towards an era of genome-related individualized therapeutic decision making. "The discussion is therefore not about whether to do the experiment, but when and how" say the authors.
Michael Stratton (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK)
(C) Nature press release.
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