Cancer is a disease of genes. It is demonstrated that the uncontrolled proliferation of tumor cells is conditioned by certain mutations in the DNA of the cells. Causes and factors that provoke these mutations are still unclear and under research. But this knowledge generated another important branch of cancer research - cancer genome research. Genome is the totality of genes of an individual.
In April 2003 was completed the Human Genome Project (HGP), which published the entire sequence of human genes. This finding is of great importance for further cancer genome research. There are a large number of cancer research centres, financed by governments or by sponsors. They elaborate diverse studies in the domain of genetic origins of cancer.
Cancer genome researches are effectuated in different directions. There are studies that are researching the influence of hereditary factors in cancer development. Other studies are concentrating on the early detection of cancer, at the stages when it is still curable. It is known that cancer is determined by certain mutations in the DNA of the cells (genes). Researchers are trying to determine which these changes and genes are, so that a genetic analysis could detect cancerous cells before the irreversible consequences develop.
One of the most important cancer genome researches is the project pilot of the Cancer Genome Atlas launched by two institutes at National Institutes of Health (The National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute). The pilot project is planned for three years with a $100 million budget. Researches hope to open new visions upon the link between genetics and cancer, and find new directions in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.
The Wellcome Trust allocated 10 million for the Cancer Genome Project. It is leaded by Professor Michael Stratton and Richard Wooster at the Sanger Institute. They have already discovered more than 100 cancer genes. However, their initial methods and techniques helped them find predominantly genes of relatively rare types of cancers. Researchers are intending to implement a new method, basing on the elaboration of the entire human genome sequence by Human Genome Project.
The leaders of the project are speculating that there are about 400 cancer genes. Another cancer genome research program is effectuated by Broad Institute. An important direction in their research is the study of kinase activation in cancer. Kinases are a specific class of enzymes, and it is considered that their abnormal activation leads to cancer. The importance of these studies is obvious, as pharmaceutical firms and organizations are already succeeding in anti-kinase drugs development.
Another important direction is the discovery of specific cancer biomarkers. This can play a great role in early detection and more effective treatment of cancers. As cancer is a disease of genes, cancer genome research is an important scientific direction for the improvement of cancer cure and prevention. Researchers are only at their beginning, but they have already given promising results.