When Will Genomics Cure Cancer?

from The Atlantic

Since the beginning of this century, the most rapidly advancing field in the life sciences, and perhaps in human inquiry of any sort, has been genomics. In 2001, rival teams from the Human Genome Project and the private company Celera each announced a draft sequence of the human genome—a map, essentially, of the 3 billion letters of DNA that make up a human being’s genetic code. Eric S. Lander was one of the leaders of the public project. Now a professor at MIT and Harvard Medical School as well as the director of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, he discusses what researchers have learned since then, and how they may soon convert many forms of cancer from fatal afflictions to manageable chronic diseases.

More here.

2 Responses to When Will Genomics Cure Cancer?

  1. Sam Sheikh April 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    This article finally says how with research lime this you cannot expect immediate or cheap results. Despite all the work that had been done there is still a lot more left to do. More and more research is being done every day changing the solutions we are coming up with currently. Cancer has been around so long i think it’s unrealistic that we expect easy answers to just come to us quickly and cheaply. This disease effects everyone differently so finding an exact answer that can be used for a large number of patients is going to take a lot of time and money. We are not really towards the end of research we are still near the beginning phases trying to use all the new studies of genomics to help find a solution. There will surely need to be multiple solutions similar to HIV and tuberculosis due to the diseases’ ability to mutate and resist. I hope we can continue to find cheaper ways to study genomics and people willing to contribute money to help find viable treatments and cures for cancer in the future.

  2. Marion Waterkeyn November 8, 2019 at 9:08 pm #

    Nowadays, cancer is the second leading cause of death with 562,875 people dying each year in the United States. Thus, it is crucial to find a good cure against cancer. Genomics, the study of genes, is making it possible to predict, diagnose, and treat diseases more precisely and personally than ever. A national geographic article explains that, genomics is providing us with a human instruction manual that is showing us how to fix ourselves. In the future we will see every cancer or other disease patient sequenced, and we will develop specific drugs to target their particular genetic alternation. As explained in the article, we started by getting one sequence of one human being only, now thanks to the decreasing cost of sequencing genomes we already looked at thousands of people.
    On average, the protein-coding regions of the mouse and human genomes are 85 percent identical; some genes are 99 percent identical while others are only 60 percent identical. Since mice are cancer prone animals and have similar genomes to humans a lot of research is being done on them with as goal to find cures against cancer and other diseases. It has been really interesting to experiment how genes change or adapt to cancer cells and other.
    However, scientist recent idea is to conduct research on cancer proof animals. By analyzing these animals, we might find interesting ways to cure cancer.
    One very interesting founding was about the largest land animal that exists, the elephant. In 2015 scientists discovered elephant’s secret against cancer. Until then, scientists were convinced that larger animals had a higher Hayflick limit and, thus, had more cell mutations. The increase of cell mutations would also increase the chance of acquiring damaged cells. In other words, the larger animals were thought more cancer prone than small animals. When they discovered the opposite, they immediately started researching this abnormal low 5 percent of cancer in elephants. Soon, they encountered 20 copies of the p53 gene, a tumor suppressor gene. The elephants were an exception to the rule as animals normally only possess a single p53 gene. The p53 gene produces an indispensable p53 protein that blocks the formation of tumors by cell arrest, DNA repair, or apoptosis. The fact that damaged cells have a higher probability of dying in elephants thanks to their p53 genes reduces their risk of obtaining cancer. Further research found a cancer-fighting zombie gene in elephants. Usually, a pseudogene, often referred as a zombie gene by the media, is a gene that had errors in its regulatory sequence, and therefore, quit functioning. However, the p53 gene actually triggered leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6), the normally inactive pseudogene in elephants, to come back to life. When the p53 gene detects damaged cells, it reanimates the LIF6 gene that instantly creates a LIF6 protein. The function of this protein is to invade the mitochondria and make holes in it, which leads to the death of the entire dangerous cell. Evidently, over time elephants have constructed a way to protect themselves from cancer. Hopefully, we will be able to create a technique to increase the copies of the p53 gene in human or also activate a pseudogene in order to decrease or cure cancer as it currently is the third leading cause of mortality amongst human
    As you can see, genomics is even useful to discover animals’ secrets against diseases such as cancer! I am convinced that there is a lot of future for genomics and that it will help us prevent, diagnose, and cure a big part of these diseases!

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