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Researchers chart genomic map spanning over 2 dozen cancers
Date:2/17/2010

An international team of researchers has created a genome-scale map of 26 different cancers, revealing more than 100 genomic sites where DNA from tumors is either missing or abnormally duplicated compared to normal tissues. The study, the largest of its kind, finds that most of these genetic abnormalities are not unique to one form of cancer, but are shared across multiple cancers. The work appears in the February 18 issue of the journal Nature.

"Our findings show that many genome alterations are universal across different cancers. Although this has been known for some types of changes, the degree to which so many alterations are shared was pretty surprising to us," said senior author Matthew Meyerson, a professor of pathology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and senior associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. "It suggests that, in the future, a driving force behind cancer treatment will be common genomic alterations, rather than tumors' tissue of origin."

Today, cancers are characterized largely by their symptoms: the organ in the body in which they first arise and the appearance of tumor cells under a microscope. Although this information is valuable, it fails to highlight cancers' molecular underpinnings, which could be used in the laboratory to discover new, more effective cancer therapies and in the clinic to improve diagnosis and treatment. A goal of modern biomedical research is to fill this knowledge gap and describe all cancers based on what drives them that is, the genetic aberrations that initiate and maintain tumor growth.

In 2004, a scientific team led by researchers at the Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute launched a project to systematically map the genetic changes across different cancers. They focused on a particular type of DNA change in which segments of a tumor's genome are present in abnormal copies. Instead of the usual two copies, tumors often carry several copies of one piece o
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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7152
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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