In The Field

AACR 2010: Cancer genomes keep coming

Cancer genomes have been a hot topic at this year’s AACR. I stopped in to see a session hosted by Elaine Mardis, Washington University’s genome maven whose been an author on most of the big cancer genome papers to date. In the session, we heard from Todd Golub of the Broad Institute, who gave preliminary results on the multiple myeloma genome, which hasn’t yet been published.

It looked like it has produced several interesting new potential cancer genes to look into. Though I won’t go into too much detail, here are some of the basic stats. They looked at cancers from 38 individuals sequencing both cancer cells and normal cells. They fully sequenced 23 of the individuals, and they did what’s called whole exome sequencing for 16 (in which they just sequence protein coding regions). One patient was sequenced by both methods.

The data produced a big list of mutations, but researchers have learned tricks for paring down such lists to find the so-called ‘drivers’ of cancer. By, for example, looking for mutations that appear frequently in cancer cells from different individuals. They came up with a short list of a dozen leading candidates. Four have been well characterized. Among the others, Golub found genes involved in regulating translation, the process by which RNA is made into protein, and even a gene implicated in susceptibility to Parkinson disease.


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