'New era' in cancer research
Friday, July 17, 2009 By Patricia C. McCarter
Times Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
HudsonAlpha chief touts genomics' role in tumor studies
Much of what's written in The Journal of the American Medical Association goes over most people's heads. It's written for health care professionals, not patients.
But in the July 15 issue of JAMA, a Huntsville geneticist co-authored an opinion piece that can be distilled into a few words: There is hope.
Dr. Rick Myers, director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, editorialized in JAMA about two research articles published in the same issue on the genetic signature of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is battling. Myers wrote the piece with Dr. Boris Pasche, director of the hematology/oncology division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center.
At research facilities such as HudsonAlpha, scientists use genomics to understand which genes are impacted by diseases such as cancer.
"These studies are actually getting the first, close-up view of what makes this particular kind of cancer," Myers said. "We've gone from knowing very little (about glioblastoma) to now having molecular targets" for treatment, medication and diagnostic tools.
Myers said the industry standard for developing new drugs is five to 10 years, but it won't take that long for the new discoveries on the genetic landscape of this type of cancer to be useful.
Oncologists can use currently available treatments and pharmaceuticals in better ways, maybe more or maybe less than in the past.
It takes some of the trial-and-error aspect out of the mix.
"These two articles on brain tumors are just the beginning, and many more reports on other cancers and other diseases will be coming in the near future
," Myers and Pasche wrote in their JAMA editorial. "Once the new alphabet of these tumors is known, scientists will have the capability to decipher the language, which will usher in a new era in cancer research."
The cancer research in the two articles they reviewed took place at Northwestern University near Chicago.