The complete genetic codes of two human cancers have been mapped for the first time. The move could herald a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalized therapy.
The exhaustive genetic maps, which catalogue every DNA mutation found in two patients’ tumors, will transform treatment of the disease. It has been described as the most significant milestone in cancer research in more than a decade.
Scientists predict that by about 2020 all cancer patients could have their tumors analyzed to find the genetic defects that drive them. This information would then be used to select the treatments most likely to work.
Insights from the genomes will also lead to the development of powerful drugs to target DNA errors that cause cancer and highlight ways in which the disease can be prevented. Cancers would be diagnosed and treated according to their genetic profiles rather than their position in the body.
“The pace at which genomics is moving is probably the most exciting thing that’s gone on in cancer research in more than a decade,” said Professor Sir John Bell, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences. “These cancer genome projects are a major landmark, as significant as the sequencing of the human genome itself.”