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Washington University scientists first to sequence genome of cancer patient
Date:11/5/2008

, and then one by one, the other genetic alterations were acquired, with each contributing something to the cancer. One mutation, in the FLT3 gene, was not present in all of the tumor cells, and they suspect that it was the last one to occur. "The final mutation may represent a tipping point that causes the cancer cells to become more dangerous," Ley says.

The team is now sequencing the genomes of additional patients with AML, and they are also planning to expand the whole-genome approach to breast and lung cancers.

This type of approach is exactly what is needed to understand the genetic basis of cancer, an essential first step to developing targeted therapies, says Brian Druker, M.D., whose research helped identify the targeted drug Gleevec as a promising therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Druker, the director of the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was not involved in the current study.

"This tour-de-force effort identified a small number of mutations in genes that no one predicted, and their uniqueness for this patient begins to give us a glimmer of the genetic complexity and diversity of this disease," he says. "Although this information doesn't yet tell us how to treat patients, it is a critical first step along that path. It sets the stage for large scale sequencing of cancer genomes and unraveling the mystery of cancer."


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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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