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A “Google Maps” Approach to Navigate the Cancer Genome

Researchers have made significant progress recently in the development of personalized cancer genomics and therapies through analysis of characteristic variations of single base pairs and chromosomes. Recently, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used an integrated system of DNA sequencing and optical mapping (a single-molecule, whole-genome analysis system) to identify both small- and large-scale genetic variations over time in a patient with multiple myeloma. Their findings were published on June 8, 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to David C. Schwartz, a professor of genetics and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior author on this study, this method is like a “Google Maps” for cancer because it allows the investigator to identify individual changes in the gene alphabet (i.e. the “street view”) and changes to the whole genome (i.e. the “Google Earth” perspective). Furthermore, this method could be used to study multiple samples over time to analyze cancer progression and monitor signs of drug resistance, which may help direct treatments over time.

Schwartz indicates this method requires further testing in multiple patients and modifications to increase the resolution, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. However, he also states that this integrated system could be used to map individual cancer genomes over the course of the disease to target further treatment.

Source: Gupta A et al. Single-molecule analysis reveals widespread structural variation in multiple myeloma. PNAS. 2015 May 6.

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