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DNA Cancer Codes Cracked By International Effort 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the world-wide-tumor dept.
Enigma23 writes "As reported on news.com.au, scientists from the International Cancer Genome Consortium of 12 institutes around the world will today release the first DNA profiles of some of the most prevalent types of tumors. While the story asserts that 'A new era of cancer treatment has dawned,' I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are still very much in their infancy at the current time."
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DNA Cancer Codes Cracked By International Effort

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:25PM (#31851540)

    Any word on a patch?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately, the patch is encumbered by patents.

    • by codepunk (167897)

      yum clean all
      yum update

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Funny)

      by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @08:06PM (#31851898) Homepage

      No but God will be suing under the DCMA.

    • by gmp (155289)

      Any word on a patch?

      We've already tried it - ethyl, methane, sulfinate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen; it created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before it even left the table.

    • by youn (1516637)

      I believe they already a patch out... unfortunately it will only work on the proprietary smoker platform ;)... and is only a temporary patch that does not give results every time, I believe

  • > I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are
    > still very much in their infancy at the current time

    Those are not the only applications for this knowledge.

    • by graft (556969) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:49PM (#31851742) Homepage

      > I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are > still very much in their infancy at the current time

      Those are not the only applications for this knowledge.

      Err, to fill in that empty shell of a comment, specifically, this will hopefully generate at least a few new genes that are useful as drug targets. Anything that can make chemotherapy a bit more specific instead of just a general metabolic poison is a bonus.

      • I don't know about the rest of the world, but in America this will certainly be a boon to the health care industry. While it would have been better for the industry before the recent legislation that prevents denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, it can still be used to set up tiered insurance charges so that people who don't have the genes will only pay a little more for insurance than they do now (doing business as it has always been done), while people who have the genes will be in a different

        • If capitalism has no place at the sick bed, then you must be advocating the government pays all doctors and funds all research etc. I personally am not in favor of that.
          • by silentcoder (1241496) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @04:50AM (#31855158) Homepage

            You must favor the complete privatization of police forces, so the protection of lives and property and the arrests of criminals is bought on an open market and only available to those who can afford to buy it.

            See what I did there ? Let's analyse your post:

            Fallacy 1: Begs the question
            Fallacy 2: Does not follow.
            Fallacy 3: Strawman attack.

            Stating that capitalism has no place at the sickbed does not imply or advocate that the correct method of paying doctors and research is governmental. This is the most common alternate system that has been tried (with huge success in general) but it's by no means the only one. There are quite a few completely different setups out there. Even your own country has thousands of free clinics run by charitable donation - e.g. there is no profit motive and it's not paid by government EITHER.

            There are at least four other healthcare systems in the world where the cost of healthcare is shared by various entities - so not all paid by government and that's just what's in active use.
            The amount of possible ways to do it that hasn't been tried and perhaps hasn't even been thought of yet is potentially infinite.

            The parent pointed out problems with profit-motive in healthcare. You assumed without any evidence that he must therefore be advocating government paid healthcare. He may or may not advocate this, but the point is - you don't know if that is what he advocates because he did NOT suggest any particular alternate system - he merely said that he is not in favor of capitalist medicine. You then took what you perceive as the worst possible alternative, stated that he *must* be advocating it, and attacked that. Three fallacies in one short sentence- impressive.

            Or is it just typical American dualist thinking ? Every issue only has two sides and two possible answers right ? That's why you can have a "democracy" where only two parties have any actual power, it works because your your entire 350 million strong population consists of people who have only one of the same two opinions on everything, and conveniently - your opinion one one issue means you must have the exact same opinion on all other issues as all the other people who share your opinion on this one...

            Actually... that sounds rather silly when you think about it... it suggests a culture that has utterly and completely marginalized any individual thinking when all the other parties out there (the greens, the libertarians etc.) even in coalition can't get enough votes for a single seat in government. You've had an independent candidate in every single election for at least a hundred years, but I don't believe you've had an independent candidate *win* the presidential election in your entire history...

            Well... the real world is not so simple. Most issues don't have just two extremes as answers, and people who actually think about things can adjust their opinion to the specific issue rather than attempting to fit one ideological extreme to all issues.
            The best way for society to solve any given problem may be completely different from the best way to solve another.
            Very few people would think that police protection should cost you money - because when you need it most, is often when you can least afford it (not to mention - a truly private police force would have zero motivation to pursue a murderer unless the family of the victim is wealthy). You happily accept that law enforcement is best done when provided entirely by the government (there is no logical requirement that the people who make the law should enforce it - we do it that way because historically we've learned it works best) but you cannot contemplate that perhaps the same failures of the market may apply to healthcare ? So maybe the government paying for all would, while not perfect, actually be better than a capitalist system ?
            You didn't actually state your reasons for being against that - you merely declared that you are with no justification - when the arguments in favor of it are quite strong, and cleverly avoided having to even consider that there are a multitude of OTHER ways medicine could be funded which may be better than EITHER capitalism OR government paid.

            In short... EPIC FAIL.

            • by ebuck (585470)
              <scarcasam>Don't ruin his day, he can't wait to pay the police to follow up on his burglary. The burglars are also banking on stealing items of small enough worth that the cost of police followup makes investigating the crime too expensive. Arguing that some services are social will mess up the whole scheme to have every item under $20 robbed from his house on a daily basis.</scarcasam>
        • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @11:25PM (#31853516) Homepage

          it can still be used to set up tiered insurance charges so that people who don't have the genes will only pay a little more for insurance than they do now (doing business as it has always been done), while people who have the genes will be in a different risk group and will be required by law to pay much higher premiums than anyone has ever had to pay before

          Buh? They didn't sequence the genes of cancer patients. They sequenced the genes of the tumours themselves.

          • They sequenced the genes of the tumours themselves.

            Good point. I was making an assumption that knowing the sequence of the tumor genes would lead to easy identification of the at risk populations. Technically I should not have done that; while it seems likely that this will be shown, it is not yet proven.

            But if I had not done that stretch of logic, we would not have been entertained by the kneejerk reaction to any criticism of the USA insurance dominated Health Care Profit Machine*. Which while tangential to the science being reported, is more central to

            • by Abcd1234 (188840)

              But if I had not done that stretch of logic, we would not have been entertained by the kneejerk reaction to any criticism of the USA insurance dominated Health Care Profit Machine*.

              Ahh, you were trolling. Good to know. Perhaps it's time to add you to my foe list...

              • Yes, but it was a Good Kind Of Troll. An attempt to briefly hijack the conversation in order to trick some people into questioning some unconscious assumptions that have been having a profound effect on the common good. As opposed to the usual troll of just trying to score points in some weird Bernesian ego game.

                I'll look for you on my freaks list and if you show up, I'll probably do the tit for tat thing. That seems to improve the slashdot experience. I also befriend most of those who befriend me.

        • by Enigma23 (460910)

          Just because a specific genetic mutation is consistently (but not necessarily always) found in, for example, patients with pancreatic cancer, does not mean that if you have that specific mutation you are in any way guarranteed to get pancreatic cancer, merely that you may have a higher-the-average propensity to contract such a malignancy.

  • There isn't really a whole lot in the article about this. It would be nice if they told us how this could help, or how they hope it might help.

    Can they identify these tumors with a simple blood test now or do they still have to do an invasive biopsy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Can they identify these tumors with a simple blood test now or do they still have to do an invasive biopsy?

      Don't forget -- you might be able to get it done with a deep anal probe too! Everyone always forgets about the deep anal probe!

    • Well I didn't RTFA (this is Slashdot) but I guess they just might provide targets (like for example what proteins ought to be inhibited) for drug development.
    • by jbengt (874751)

      Can they identify these tumors with a simple blood test now or do they still have to do an invasive biopsy?

      They need to do an invasive biopsy to evaluate how the cells look and whether the cancer is spreading beyond the margins of the tumor. By the time the genes are found in the blood, it probably has already spread.

  • by purduephotog (218304) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:38PM (#31851654) Homepage Journal

    I was diagnosed with stage 5 cancer at age 17. I'm still alive at age 33.

    There's not a day that goes by when I don't look at my disfigured face and wonder what thing would have been like if I'd caught it sooner- according to one doc, I'd have been dead because my body wouldn't have fought it off. Who knows.

    But anything that gets a genetic component and allows them to focus better on killing off the cells that have tormented me for over a dozen years I'll be more than grateful. There isn't a trip to the doctor that doesn't send shiver of fear down my spine, whether or not I'll be able to continue to provide for my family- whether or not that cough that started was due to pollen or something else... whether or not that pain in the side is a kidney stone or something more sinister.

    Cancer is a killer. Even the survivors die a little every day.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:48PM (#31851734)

      I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in the fall of 1980, it doesn't have stages like tumor cancers, but at the time I had a 5% chance to make it 3 years. I was clean after 3 months, it relapsed in the fall of 1982, 5% chance to make it 5 years.

      Spring of 1991 I was diagnosed early with Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ) Testicular Cancer on both sides, surgery and some chemo.

      Fall of 2006 I was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor in my neck, that left a nice scar.

      I'm the only one in my NIH tracking group of ALL from back then to be alive.

      Doctors freak me out, IVs of anytime scare the hell out of me, my fear are lumps from a lymph node.

      • I had a friend who went thru something similar (don't remember details anymore, he never talked much about it) back in college in Minnesota (this was in the mid 80s.) He got thru school, and although we lost touch a long time ago, I still admire his attitude towards it - never ever give up.

        I'm remembering that nowadays in my early forties; my family doesn't have much of a history of cancer, but we do of early heart disease, and every little blip I have scares me.

        Good luck to you...

        S

    • by Calibax (151875) * on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @08:17PM (#31851992)

      Staging systems are specific for each type of cancer but I don't think there are any stage 5 cancers. Overall cancer staging goes from stage 0 to stage IV - some cancers go from stage I to stage IV. In all cancers, stage IV means it has metastasized to distant locations in the body, which generally has a very poor prognosis.

      In any case, for the majority of tumors, staging has been replaced by the TNM system (tumor, nodes, metastasis). For example, my colon cancer is staged T3N0M0, meaning a stage 3 tumor that has not spread to lymph nodes and has not spread to other organs.

      If you have had no re-occurrence of your cancer after 16 then you are almost certainly free of the disease. Most cancers show up before within 5 years if they are going to reappear. That's why people are classified as cancer survivors if they are disease free after 5 years. There are some exceptions (such as breast cancer) that do have a tendency to reoccur in later life, but even then it's not common.

      I suggest that after 12+ years you just accept that you are alive and stop living as if there's a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head.

      Personally, this cancer survivor does not die a little each day as you suggest - quite the opposite. I try to live life to the full, enjoying my wife and family.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The great thing about this is that ICGC [icgc.org] is releasing all their data under what they call a confederated database DCC [icgc.org]. If you browse to their samples they have T4N2M1's and more. I think it's great that the data is getting out there!
        However they do seem to be lacking the actual science/criteria behind the submission.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      > Even the survivors die a little every day.

      Everybody dies a little every day. Life is fatal.

      • > Even the survivors die a little every day.

        Everybody dies a little every day. Life is fatal.

        Aw I dunno about that. But then again it's important to remember that nobody gets out of this alive. ;)

    • by andot (714926)
      I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma 4 years ago. Very agressive form, nerve damage, multiple organ damage, awful pains. Got MUCH chemotheraphy and stem chell transplant. Chemotherpahy nearly killed me. Anything making chemotheraphy easier to live with is blessing. P.S I thought before cancer, that american medical system is good. Now i have changed my views. Fortunately I live in europan country where health insurance is for everyone.
    • by Nyder (754090)

      Cancer is a killer. Even the survivors die a little every day.

      Weird, so is Life, 'cause we all die a little day by day.

      Not to make it seem like your cancer doesn't suck or anything, but it's part of life. You are one of the unlucky ones, yes, but that is life.
      Some peeps have other problems, some don't have any problems, just part of life.

      But just so you know, we are all dying a little, day by day, you got nothing special on that.

  • Just make sure she's not involved and one of us won't have to become a Legend.

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:46PM (#31851726)
    http://www.qcmg.org/cancer.html [qcmg.org] It gives a background of what they are trying to do, seems interesting.
  • by 00Sovereign (106393) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:56PM (#31851794)
    I've been following this for awhile. Looks like I get to update my "hit list" of gene targets to investigate. And that's what this will ultimately be...a list of interesting genes to look at for further investigation. No cures right away, it will take time to absorb this data into the collective intelligence of the medical research community and years to turn it into new treatments.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by graft (556969)
      It also occurs to me that you can use this to identify specific alleles associated with increased risk of cancer. Not that genetic screening is generally very useful yet, but more maps like this will give a better idea of an individual's chance of developing specific types of cancer, maybe even associated with specific activities. E.g., "if you have these particular variants, you're much more likely to develop lung cancer, so you should smoke even less than a normal person." (I hope to GOD we (in the US) ha
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by morty_vikka (1112597)
      I hear ya, it's exciting stuff... Just to add a twist, it should be noted that the vast majority of mutations found in tumours that have been fully sequenced so far occur outside protein coding regions. Not to say protein coding genes are not important, but it's likely that mutations in intergenic regions, promoters, noncoding RNA 'genes' and introns are also likely to play a major role in transformation to a cancerous phenotype in many cases.

      The issue is going to be getting enough data for statistical rob
  • This kind of thing of thing gives me a little hope that if I can just hold on 40 more years or so, they'll keep inventing better and better stuff that could keep me alive for several more (former) lifetimes.

    Honestly, dying right before that stuff really gets going would be quite a shame.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @09:01PM (#31852388) Homepage

    The war on cancer [wikipedia.org] and the war on drugs [wikipedia.org] are pretty similar in certain ways. Both date back to Richard Nixon, ca. 1970. Both are vast, expensive projects of the federal government. Both have entrenched political/financial constituencies that want the federal money to keep flowing. Both have taken much, much longer and accomplished much, much less than Nixon and his contemporaries anticipated.

    When it comes to cancer, the hype about prevention, early detection, and treatment has vastly overrun the actual medical gains. We were told for decades that eating lots of fiber would prevent colon cancer, but the first carefully designed study on this topic shows that it doesn't. We were told that PSA tests would save lives by allowing early treatment of prostate cancer; actually, the first good double-blind study showed that it saved no lives at all (while making many men incontinent and/or impotent). We were told that extending screening for breast cancer to younger women would produce better outcomes, but actually it turns out that it doesn't. In general, modern imaging techniques pick out tons of abnormalities than patients then demand to have treated, whether or not they would ever have caused a problem. People thought that personal genomics would allow individuals to get better prevention and treatment, but it turns out that there really don't seem to be any common mutations that predispose large numbers of people to a high risk of a particular cancer.

    What we really need is more fundamental research on the biology of cancer. These half-assed attempts to find a quick answer have turned out to be mostly fruitless. It's like trying to send men to the moon without knowing Newton's laws of motion. We don't understand basic things like whether many cancers are caused by chromosomal abnormalities or whether the chromosomal abnormalities are caused by the cancers. While we're waiting for the fundamental biology knowledge to get figured out, we could concentrate on convincing people not to smoke tobacco.

    • Oh I dunno, I thought it was pretty obvious what caused cancer. Just make sure you're not born at the end of June.

      Checks birthday

      Oh shit.
    • We don't understand basic things like whether many cancers are caused by chromosomal abnormalities or whether the chromosomal abnormalities are caused by the cancers.

      Or viral causes, for that matter.

      While we're waiting for the fundamental biology knowledge to get figured out, we could concentrate on convincing people not to smoke tobacco.

      We're already doing that, but I think that legislation and sin taxes aren't the right way to do it. Stopping people from smoking is going

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you're diagnosed with cancer, feel free to restrict yourself to the level of treatment that was available in 1970. Be sure to let us know how it works out for you. But you'd better do it quickly, because odds are you won't have very long.

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        If you're diagnosed with cancer, feel free to restrict yourself to the level of treatment that was available in 1970. Be sure to let us know how it works out for you. But you'd better do it quickly, because odds are you won't have very long.

        Two problems with your argument:

        1. You seem to be assuming that cancer treatment has made great strides since 1970. Actually it hasn't. I can understand how you'd get the impression that it has, because that's the relentless PR drumbeat of the medical establishment. E.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          You seem to be assuming that cancer treatment has made great strides since 1970. Actually it hasn't.

          It has, whether you want to admit it or not. Are you going to dismiss the ACS as a shill for the health care industry? Here [cancer.org] (PDF file) is a pretty comprehensive overview; I direct your attention particularly to the "Trends in 5-year relative survival rates" table on page 18.

          And yes, of course cancer treatment centers oversell their treatments. But your claim that:

          Actually most cancers have pretty much the same prognosis today they did in 1970.

          is absolutely false. You do a nice bait-and-switch there, noting correctly that:

          The list of cancers that was incurable in 1970 and is curable today is extremely short.

          and then pretending that it supports your earlier claim. But

          • by bcrowell (177657)

            I wrote:

            You seem to be assuming that cancer treatment has made great strides since 1970. Actually it hasn't.

            Daniel Dvorkin wrote:

            It has, whether you want to admit it or not. Are you going to dismiss the ACS as a shill for the health care industry? Here (PDF file) is a pretty comprehensive overview; I direct your attention particularly to the "Trends in 5-year relative survival rates" table on page 18.

            I guess we have different definitions of "great strides." The general 5-year survival rate for all canc

  • World: please stop calling DNA sequences "codes" that can be "cracked". There is no encryption going on here and, if you really want to use that metaphor than what they're doing is not cracking (decrypting) the code, but determining its sequence. Sequencing 4 cancer genomes is an enormous achievement that will provide countless biological insights, but nothing was "cracked". I'm a biologist, but aren't there cryptographers out there that are annoyed by this terminology???
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by RoadNotTaken (1702106)
      Let me follow-up with a car analogy: Imagine you found the blueprints for a car that had a slight problem (say occasional aberrant acceleration, for example). Sequencing cancer genomes is akin to *finding* these blueprints. But it gets worse, the blueprints are in a different language and have no idea what 70% of the parts in the plans actually DO. Yes - the blueprint is helpful. Very helpful. In fact there's not much you can do without it. But it doesn't immediately help you FIX the problem. The o
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, that's not entirely true. There's also some weird stuff going on with methylation that still needs to be cracked. That's a part of the "code" if there were to be one. Also, you could say there's a histone code, with it's own methylation. I'm sure there's other mysteries in there as well.

        But, as the parent says, sequencing is sequencing --- not code cracking.

        Also, can I make a plea to the world that we stop saying scientists "map" a genome when they really sequenced it. Mapping is a completely differen

      • by MachDelta (704883)

        Blame whoever came up with the term "codon" :)

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by RoadNotTaken (1702106)
          You're right - that's probably where it started! That said, codon refers to the only (that I can think of) true code in biology. The other potential codes just mentioned (DNA methylation, histone mods, etc) are really more biochemical features that interact with proteins to regulate gene expression. The triplet code (code) is basically universal. TAA means STOP to every organism on the planet from worms to fish to bacteria to man. Histone mods and DNA methylation matter, but they're much more specific
  • Dawn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monkey-Man2000 (603495) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @09:51PM (#31852822)
    "I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are still very much in their infancy at the current time."
    Hence the phrase "era of cancer treatment has dawned" instead of "era of cancer treatment has nooned [or twilighted]". Putting the cart in front of the horse perhaps?
  • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @10:03PM (#31852930)

    "...I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are still very much in their infancy at the current time."

    Yup, and it'll likely stay that way if big pharma has their way with things. Why ruin a multi-billion dollar drug and treatment industry just to save a few thousand lives, right?

    Greedy fucking bastards.

    • by Elyas (59360)

      The rest of the world's government run health care programs are welcome to do something too....

  • Even if this doesn't lead to any sort of treatment(which seems highly doubtful), it still has applications to cancer treatment and prevention. One thing that comes to mind might be to collect cells from a patient's body in various places and do a genome sequencing of these cells. Take that information and compare it to common cancer mutations and you've got a way to assess the risk of how likely someone is to develop cancer. Genetics is epic.
  • Who can now be cured - whilst the poor and stuff it.

  • So you think you get some applause because you found out the mapping to the tumors and how to grow, ....here you go /claps...
    no stop trying to stall and make all the pharmaceuticals more money and give us the cure already.....I bet if we had a higher rate of cancer, they would go just a little faster....yet when there is enough of us to go around, they take their time and think they can make some extra money on the side while making us wait.

    Anyone trying to mod me down, will get cancer....and make the pharm

  • ...nobody cares for it to not happen in the first place. At all.
    While we still live in toxic shit, wear toxic shit, breathe toxic shit, eat toxic shit, and put toxic shit on our skins, as if that were the most normal thing in the world to do.
    And big pharma plus all the doctors make a nice profit off of it.

    Sorry, but we as a species, deserver cancer for that extreme horrible ignorance of ours.

  • While the story asserts that 'A new era of cancer treatment has dawned,' I'm a bit more skeptical, given that gene therapy and immunotherapy are still very much in their infancy at the current time.

    I'm pretty sure that 'infancy' and 'dawn' are analogies for the same concept... Now if they had said "cancer is history," you might have a point.

  • Hey, scientists! The Internet's Enigma23 is skeptical of your results! Back to the drawing board, nerds!

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