Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cancer genetic discovery breaks new ground

It is only a matter of time until genetic discoveries help in the prevention of disease - predictive health.

According to a study published in Science and covered by Healthday, researchers have sequenced the genetic "blueprints" of two major cancer killers - breast and colon cancer.

Identifying nearly 200 genes thought responsible for these diseases, the work gives researchers new insight into these malignancies and lays the foundation for the gene-targeted therapies that may one day cure them."Only by understanding this blueprint of cancer will we be fully able to understand the mechanism of what makes a cancer a cancer and to think about strategies for diagnosis, prevention and therapy," explained Dr. Victor Velculescu at Johns Hopkins University's Kimmel Cancer Center.

Just as the human body has its genetic code, so, too, do cancer cells. "Work from the past two decades has shown us that cancer is a genetic disease," said Velculescu.

He explained that a malignancy occurs when specific genes in healthy cells undergo unhealthy mutations. He says that the research approach holds great promise for providing an understanding of the genomic contributions to cancer. A mutation is really like a typo in a blueprint that's 3 billion letters long, according to the researcher.

Velculescu's team outlined the findings in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Science.

A new $100 million federal initiative, The Cancer Genome Atlas project, seeks to change all that by mapping the myriad genetic "typos" that cause specific tumor types to form. The project described in Science is the first major step in that effort, according to the Healthday coverage.