The complete genetic codes of two human cancers have been mapped for the first time. It has been described as the most significant milestone in cancer research in more than a decade. The findings could herald a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalized therapy.
The research was led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England. Medical experts note that the findings could launch a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalized therapy.
Mapping of cancer code is a huge breakthrough and may soon herald blood tests that could detect tumors far earlier than currently possible explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. There are 1.4 million cancer cases in the U.S. and well over 500,000 cancer-caused deaths occur annually.
Scientists were examining which genes go wrong in different types of cancer. The DNA code for the skin cancer called melanoma reportedly has more than 30,000 errors, mostly caused by too much exposure to the sun. The lung cancer DNA had more than 23,000 errors, most triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke.
The exhaustive genetic maps, which catalogue every DNA mutation found in two patients’ tumors, will transform treatment of the disease. Scientists predict that by about 2020 all cancer patients could have their tumors analyzed to find the genetic defects that drive them. This information would then be used to select the treatments most likely to work.
Physicians and researchers noted that insights will also lead to the development of powerful drugs to target DNA errors that cause cancer and highlight ways in which the disease can be prevented. Cancers would be diagnosed and treated according to their genetic profiles rather than their position in the body.
Written by Mindy Hartman