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Chromosomal translocations point the way toward personalized cancer care
Date:8/13/2012

Center, targets the energy system of these cells. In both cases, targeted therapies kill cancerous cells with these translocations while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Recognizing specific translocations can also allow doctors to offer a more accurate prognosis and may inform treatment decisions.

Still, "there are many challenges in this developing science," Wang says. "The first is describing the mechanism of these translocations, for example, whether chromosomes that are near each other are prone to joining in ways that allow them to exchange or fuse genetic material, or if chromosomes that spontaneously break then go looking around for partners." There are scientists on either side of this breakage first or contact first hypothesis.

Another challenge is discovering which translocations cause cancer and which just happen to hitchhike along with other mutations that are cancer's true cause.

"From human tumors, you can get frequency data," Wang says you can discover what translocations are frequent in types of cancer. "But this is correlative. To discover if a translocation is oncogenic, you need other models."

New technologies including next-gen DNA sequencing make it increasingly easy to discover the genetic differences between cancerous and healthy cells. "In 20 years we're talking about personalizing the genome," Wang says, meaning that every individual cancer patient could be genetically screened for every genetic mutation and then treatment based on the signature of their mutations.

But discovering which mutations matter is another story. When you pinpoint a mutation, for obvious reasons you can't create a translocation in a human and then watch to see if cancer develops. And so the process of vetting thousands of translocations for their oncogenic power is tedious and involved.

Even once you discover an oncogenic translocation, it remains unsure whether the discovery will prove therapeutically useful. "
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Contact: Garth Sundem
garth.sundem@ucdenver.edu
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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