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Biotechnology and health

300 genes found at the root of cancers could spur more personalized treatments

April 5, 2018

A 10-year-long study called the PanCancer Atlas is releasing a trove of genetic data in an effort to help doctors treat a wide variety of cancers more precisely.

The history: Over the past decade, 150 researchers from the US and around the world painstakingly analyzed DNA, RNA, and proteins from tumor samples of more than 11,000 patients with 33 different types of cancer.

The findings: From that data, scientists have identified about 300 genes that drive tumor growth. They also found that just over half the tumors samples analyzed carry genetic mutations that could be targeted by therapies that are already on the market. These findings and others appear in 29 different papers today in the journal Cell.

Why it matters: Researchers say the insights gleaned can be used to tailor more personalized treatments for cancer patients. “This analysis provides cancer researchers with unprecedented understanding of how, where, and why tumors arise in humans, enabling better-informed clinical trials and future treatments,” says Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, which funded the project.

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