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Gene sequencing project mines data once considered 'junk' for clues about cancer
Date:1/24/2013

ng of normal and tumor DNA from 235 pediatric patients battling 13 different cancers. For comparison, normal DNA from 13 adult cancer patients was included in the research.

"There's been a lot of interest among cancer researchers into telomere length," said Richard Wilson, Ph.D., director of The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "While more research remains, we think it's important to begin to characterize the genetic sequences that make up the telomeres. That's a crucial first step to understanding more precisely any role they may play in cancer."

The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project sequenced the complete normal and cancer genomes of more than 600 children and adolescents with some of the most aggressive and least understood cancers. Investigators believe the project's findings will lay the foundation for a new generation of clinical tools. Despite advances, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease of U.S. children age 1 and older.

The human genome is stored in the four-letter chemical alphabet of DNA, a molecule that stretches more than 3 billion characters in length and provides the instructions for building and sustaining life. Those instructions are the genes that are organized into the 46 chromosomes found in almost every cell.

Each chromosome ends with the same six-letter DNA sequence that is associated exclusively with telomeres. The DNA sequence does not vary, but the number of times it is repeated does, affecting the length of the telomeres. Telomeres shorten each time cells divide, which explains why their length declines naturally with age.

Researchers have known cancer cells use several mechanisms to circumvent the process and keep dividing. But until now the repetitive nature of the telomeric DNA sequence meant they had little to offer researchers using whole-genome sequencing to map the human genome. Other genes can be assigned to a particular spot on
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Contact: Carrie Strehlau
carrie.strehlau@stjude.org
901-595-2295
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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