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How the Genome and the Computer Have Reshaped Our View of Cancer

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Published on Nov 20, 2013

March 25, 2009
Dr. David Botstein
The Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University

World-renowned geneticist and pioneer of the Human Genome Project David Botstein discusses how the mapping of the human genome has transformed medicine. The Human Genome Project, completed in April 2003, mapped the location of each of the genes in the human genome and decoded, or sequenced, each gene's instruction. Because of the complexity of our genomes, the ability to obtain genomic sequences depends on revolutionary advances in speed, capacity, and versatility of digital computers.

Using a combination of new DNA chemistry and computational methods, scientists have identified thousands of genes that cause inherited diseases. Among them are genes that cause inherited predispositions to breast cancer, colon cancer, and kidney cancer, among others. With these methods it has become possible to study, at a comprehensive level, the differences in gene activity that accompany the transformation of tissues from normal to cancerous, and to classify different subtypes of cancers by their "molecular signatures." We now can distinguish several kinds of breast cancer, some of which are more aggressive and lethal than others, and some of which are uniquely sensitive to new classes of targeted drugs.

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