CBC Report: A $100 million US pilot project aims to understand the genetic makeup of cancer to improve diagnosis and treatment.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced the launch of the Cancer Genome Atlas on Tuesday in Washington.
The project will systematically explore changes in the human genetic blueprint involved in all types of human cancer, which includes more than 200 different diseases.
"This atlas of genomic changes will provide new insights into the biological basis of cancer, which in turn will lead to new tests to detect cancer in its early, most treatable stages; new therapies to target cancer at its most vulnerable points; and, ultimately, new strategies to prevent cancer," said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni in a release.
Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH genetics chief, compared the cancer project to "thousands of Human Genome projects." He helped direct that project.
"We have the opportunity, because of advances in technology, to really look at the global nature of what is wrong with the cancer cell in a way that frankly we could not have dreamed of even a few years ago," Collins said at the announcement.
In some cases, one genetic mutation can spark the uncontrolled cell growth in a tumour, or increase susceptibility to the disease.
Usually cancer is more complex, involving dozen of genetic changes that differ in malignancy. Small molecules added or removed from DNA can also change how genes function.
Understanding the molecular basis of cancer has allowed researchers to develop the first drugs that target specific faulty genes, such as Herceptin for one form of breast cancer and Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia.
The three-year pilot project will focus on two or three types of cancer to determine the feasibility of a larger-scale effort.
The data will be available to researchers worldwide.
We had thought that scientists and mankind would upon unravelling the human genome, would make this one of the first targets, so who knows where this project will lead, to a cure for this and prove the technology worthy of tackling the HIV strains, hopefully, and almost to hell with where they came from, eventually?
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