Researchers Discovery Hundreds of Genes Involved with Breast and Colorectal Cancers (dateline October 22, 2006)
Researchers have identified several genes that cause breast and colorectal cancers, according to a study published in the journal, Science. While examining the genomes of breast and colorectal cancer cells for mutations, researchers found nearly 200 cancer-causing genes, far more than they expected. Only 10 genes have previously been linked to the two cancers. The findings of the study must be replicated, but they give hope to targeting cancer treatments to individuals instead of giving standard treatments to all.
"This groundbreaking work provides a dramatic proof of concept that this research approach holds great promise for providing an understanding of the genomic contributions to cancer," said National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., in an NIH news release. It also provides confirmation that the strategy selected for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) pilot project at the NIH is likely to produce important discoveries and impact cancer care." The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
According to the NIH, TCGA was launched as a three-year, $100 million pilot project to determine whether large-scale genome sequencing and other genomic technologies could help researchers comprehensively identify the genetic changes that cause cancer. The pilot project, which began in December 2005, is a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute.
The findings at Johns Hopkins are just the beginning," said National Human Genome Research Institute Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. in the NIH news release. "As TCGA is launched and reaches full production, it will significantly and rapidly expand the amount and types of genetic information revealed about cancer. We anticipate that as TCGA scales up, we may be able to identify the majority of genetic changes that cause the most important and common forms of the major cancers. In fact, the large number of mutations reported in this paper offers a glimpse of what is yet to come and provides exciting new directions for drug discovery in breast and colon cancer."
"There are already a few excellent examples where the discovery of specific genetic changes has led to the development of effective, targeted treatments for cancer," said NCI Deputy Director Anna D. Barker, Ph.D. in the news release. "Drugs such as Herceptin for breast cancer and Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors have offered proof of concept that this is a high-value strategy. The report from the team at Johns Hopkins is very promising - both for TCGA and for this approach to drug discovery. Maximizing the numbers of targets available for drug development in a specific cancer means that patients will ultimately receive more personalized, less toxic therapies."