The Cancer Genome Atlas
Posted In: Director's Album - Videos
Scientists have spent much time and energy mapping the many DNA misspellings that can transform healthy cells into cancerous ones. But recently it has become increasingly clear that changes to the DNA sequence itself are not the only culprits. Cancer can also be driven by epigenetic changes to DNA—modifications to chemical marks on the genome don’t alter the sequence of the DNA molecule, but act to influence gene activity. A prime example of this can been seen in glioblastoma, a rare and deadly form of brain cancer that strikes about 12,000 Americans each year.
In fact, an NIH-funded research team recently published in Nature Communications the most complete portrait to date of the epigenetic patterns characteristic of the glioblastoma genome . Among their findings were patterns associated with how long patients survived after the cancer was detected. While far more research is needed, the findings highlight the potential of epigenetic information to help doctors devise more precise ways of diagnosing, treating, and perhaps even preventing glioblastoma and many other forms of cancer.
Tags: 5-hmC, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5-mC, 5-methylcytosine, brain, brain cancer, cancer, cancer epigenetics, cancer epigenome, epigenetics, glioblastoma, glioblastoma multiforme, oncology, precision oncology, The Cancer Genome Atlas
When Julie Dunning Hotopp was a post-doctoral fellow in the early 2000s, bacteria were known for swapping bits of their DNA with other bacteria, a strategy known as lateral gene transfer. But the offloading of genes from bacteria into multicellular organisms was thought to be rare, with limited evidence that a bacterial genus called Wolbachia, which invades the cells of other organisms and takes up permanent residence, had passed off some of its DNA onto a species of beetle and a parasitic worm. Dunning Hotopp wondered whether lateral gene transfer might be a more common phenomenon than the evidence showed.
She and her colleagues soon discovered that Wolbachia had engaged in widespread lateral gene transfer with eight species of insects and nematode worms, possibly passing on genes and traits to their invertebrate hosts . This important discovery put Dunning Hotopp on a research trail that now has taken a sharp turn toward human cancer and earned her a 2015 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. This NIH award supports exceptionally innovative research projects that are inherently risky and untested but have the potential to change fundamental research paradigms in areas such as cancer and throughout the biomedical sciences.
Tags: 1000 Genomes Project, acute myeloid leukemia, bacteria, bacterial contamination, cancer, gene transfer, genomics, Human Genome Project, lateral gene transfer, microbes, microbiome, NIH Director's Transformative Research Award, stomach cancer, The Cancer Genome Atlas, Wolbachia
It was a pleasure for me last night to attend the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as “the Sammies.” This Washington, D.C. event, now in its 12th year as the “Oscars of American government service,” was a big night for NIH. Steven Rosenberg, a highly regarded physician-scientist at NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), took home the evening’s highest honor as the 2015 Federal Employee of the Year.
Also hearing their names called were NCI’s Jean Claude Zenklusen and Carolyn Hutter of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). They received the inaugural People’s Choice Award. It marks the highest vote-getter from the general public, which was invited to choose from among this year’s 30 finalists in eight award categories.
Tags: cancer, Carolyn Hutter, Federal Employee of the Year, immunotherapy, Jean Claude Zenklusen, Partnership for Public Service, public service, Sammies, Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, Steve Rosenberg, TCGA, The Cancer Genome Atlas