On the Genome Journey

Mike Hennessy
Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Mike Hennessy

OncLive Chairman,
Mike Hennessy

When the mapping of the human genome was completed more than a decade ago, there was unbridled excitement about the impact that the wealth of new knowledge would have on medicine, particularly on cancer treatment. The subsequent dashed hopes made for keen disappointment and much questioning about why more progress has not been made.

Two articles in this issue of OncologyLive illustrate how the genome story continues to unfold in oncology—along with the complexities of developing treatment strategies that truly are precisely designed for individual patients.

Our cover story, “Promising Biomarkers Emerging Across the Spectrum of Prostate Cancer Care,” captures genomic advances in the understanding of this malignancy that are likely to help advance care. There are many unsettled questions in the early detection and subsequent treatment of prostate cancer that recently developed genomic assays and biomarkers should help elucidate.

E. David Crawford, MD, who offered an overview of the evolving landscape at the 7th Annual Interdisciplinary Prostate Cancer Congress™ in March, was quite optimistic about the prospects for improving patient care. “Biomarkers are a game changer in prostate cancer,” he declared.

At the same time, however, Crawford noted that painstaking validation of biomarkers is needed before they can be useful in clinical practice.

In our OncPathways® section, we report on advances on the scientific front. Researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have expanded knowledge about the genetic nature of cancer exponentially with the discovery of 33 genes previously not linked to any tumor types.

Those findings represent a 25% increase in the number of genes that had been implicated in cancer, and the work is by no means finished. Broad scientists Gad Getz, PhD, MSc, and Michael S. Lawrence, PhD, estimate that establishing a complete catalog of cancer gene mutations occurring in just 2% of patients across 50 tumor types will involve sequencing the DNA of 100,000 patients.

Given today’s sequencing technologies, that goal is considered achievable—and that, perhaps, is the most important message here. Although the pace of progress might not have been as rapid as initially anticipated, we keep moving forward.

Please let us know what you would like to read about these developments. As always, thank you for reading.


View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: Redefining Ovarian Cancer Treatment Paradigms by Maximizing Therapeutic Outcomes with PARP InhibitorsSep 29, 20182.0
Community Practice Connections™: 16th Annual International Congress on the Future of Breast Cancer®Sep 29, 20182.0
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