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Genome Project Named a 2008 “Breakthrough of the Year”

The December 19, 2008 issue of Science looked back at stories of the past 12 months and named "Breakthroughs of the Year." The #3 breakthrough was "Cancer Genes," which included the Pancreatic Cancer Genome Project.

#3 Cancer Genes:

Researchers this year turned a searchlight on the errant DNA that leads tumor cells to grow out of control. These studies are revealing the entire genetic landscape of specific human cancers, providing new avenues for diagnosis and treatment. Tumor cells are typically riddled with genetic mistakes that disrupt key cell pathways, removing the brakes on cell division. Thanks to the completion of the human genome and cheaper sequencing, researchers can now systematically survey many genes in cancer cells for changes that earlier methods missed. Results from the first of these so-called cancer genome projects came out 2 years ago, and the output ramped up in 2008.

Leading the list were reports on pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma, the deadliest cancers. By sequencing hundreds or thousands of genes, researchers fingered dozens of mutations, both known and new. For example, a new cancer gene called IDH1 appeared in a sizable 12% of samples from glioma brain tumors. A separate glioma study revealed hints as to why some patients' tumors develop drug resistance. Other studies winnowed out abnormal DNA in lung adenocarcinoma tumors and acute myeloid leukemia.

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