U.S. government researchers launched on Tuesday a pilot project to
find all the little genetic changes that cause cancer and hope it can
open a whole new world of targeted cancer therapy.
They hope to
lay the groundwork for replicating the successes of a few targeted
cancer therapies such as Genentech Inc’s Herceptin, useful against one
type of breast cancer, and Novartis’ Gleevec, a pill that
revolutionized treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.
know that cancer is a genetic disease, caused by mutations or other
changes in the DNA of cells. But no one has done a systematic analysis
of all the mutations in various tumors.
The Cancer Genome Atlas
project launched by the National Cancer Institute and the National
Human Genome Research Institute will try to make a start.
word "cancer" describes a range of at least 200 different diseases, and
even "lung cancer" or "breast cancer" are catchall terms for tumors
that arise because of differing genetic mistakes.
Cancer is the
second leading killer in most industrialized countries, after heart
disease, and about 60 percent of patients are alive five years after
"This cancer genome atlas project is all about the
progress that is necessary for us to make cancer a chronic and
manageable condition that no longer causes the suffering and death that
we see all around us," Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, director of the
National Cancer Institute who is currently also acting commissioner of
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told a news conference.
By Maggie Fox