April 21, 2013
Cancer Gene Study Identifies Hundreds Of Drug Targets

The rate of advance in cancer research is accelerating due to th ability to do massive studies on genetic differences in cancer cells.

NEW YORK—A massive study analyzing gene expression data from 22 tumor types has identified multiple metabolic expression changes associated with cancer. The analysis, conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, also identified hundreds of potential drug targets that could cut off a tumor's fuel supply or interfere with its ability to synthesize essential building blocks. The study was published today in the online edition of Nature Biotechnology.

The results should ramp up research into drugs that interfere with cancer metabolism, a field that dominated cancer research in the early 20th century and has recently undergone a renaissance. [Fuel Lines of Tumors Are New Target: http://nyti.ms/10QMkY1]

"The importance of this new study is its scope," said Dennis Vitkup, PhD, associate professor of biomedical informatics (in the Initiative in Systems Biology) at CUMC, the study's lead investigator. "So far, people have focused mainly on a few genes involved in major metabolic processes. Our study provides a comprehensive, global view of diverse metabolic alterations at the level of gene expression."

This research demonstrates what is looking like one of the biggest benefits of cheap DNA testing and sequencing: The ability to identify all the genetic mutations that contribute to cells becoming cancerous. Collecting that information just one mutation at a time is completely inadequate due the very large numbers of individual mutations involved in cancer. Also, many different combinations of mutations are capable of enabling the growth and spread of cancer.

Cures for cancer are waiting on the development of tools that can collect information about genes and cellular metabolism on a scale many orders of magnitude greater than what was possible 10 or 20 years ago. We need truly massive amounts of data on the state of cancer cells in order to figure out how the various genetic alterations interact to cause cancer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 April 21 10:14 PM 

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