Cracking the Cancer Code
Somasekar Seshagiri, Genetech
Cancer is the byproduct of misdirected evolution on a fast track. Typically, this evolutionary process leads to alterations in the normal cellular DNA resulting in deregulated cellular growth and proliferation. Identifying and understanding such growth promoting DNA alterations in cancers is fundamental for effective drug development and treatment of cancers. Our laboratory has applied various molecular biological, biochemical and genomic techniques, including the new DNA sequencing technologies to identify DNA alteration in cancer. In the process of acquiring growth promoting “driver” alterations, cancer cells also acquire a large number of passive “passenger” alterations. This makes identifying the relevant driver alteration in the midst of the passenger mutations a “needle in a haystack” problem. Using multiple approaches that include bioinformatics analysis of the DNA sequence changes and cell based functional assays we have systematically studied the catalogue of cancer alterations to identify several changes that can be targeted therapeutically. Besides establishing the functional relevance of cancer alterations, using animal and cellular models that carry appropriate driver changes, we have participated in the testing and development of several drugs for cancer therapy.
Our work and studies from multiple laboratories across the world will accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. This will lead to improved diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer.
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