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Scientists unlock genetic code of cancer

17th December 2009

The entire genetic codes of two of the most common cancers have been unlocked by a team of international scientists.

The cracking of the genetic code of skin and lung cancer could pave the way to revolutionising cancer care.

The Wellcome Trust team say the cancer maps can lead to blood tests to spot tumours far earlier and also yield new drug targets.

In various parts of the world, scientists are now working to catalogue all the genes that go wrong in many types of human cancer, including UK researchers who are looking at breast cancer.

A team in Japan is focusing on liver and India the mouth while Chinese scientists are studying stomach cancer. A US team is looking at cancers of the brain, ovary and pancreas.

A total of 10 countries have scientists involved in the International Cancer Genome Consortium in a task that could take five years.

UK lead Professor Michael Stratton said: "These catalogues are going to change the way we think about individual cancers.

"By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments.

"We can envisage a time when following the removal of a cancer cataloguing it will become routine."

Professor Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute said the research was groundbreaking.

"Like molecular archaeologists, these researchers have dug through layers of genetic information to uncover the history of these patients' disease,” he said.

 

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