The cancer genome in context: finding mutations is just the start

Cath Ennis, PhD

[Originally posted on Occam’s Corner at Guardian Science, in June 2013]
Sequencing the genomes of cancer cells lets us identify the mutations that drive the disease and develop drugs that target each mutation. But that’s just the start of the story…
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Nucleosome 1KX5 2
Cancer is caused by changes to the cell’s DNA – but there’s much more to a cancer cell than just its DNA. Image: Richard Wheeler/Zephyris
Cancer is a disease of the genome, initiated by mutations in the genes that usually control cell growth and division.Scientists started to identify the most common mutations found in the most common cancers back in the 1970s, although the limitations of the technology available at the time meant that progress was slow. Drugs that specifically target some of these mutations are already available and prolonging cancer patients’ lives. Now, new technologies such as whole-genome DNA sequencing allow us to identify mutations…

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