Incredible advances in cancer genetics have revolutionized how we think about cancer. These advances are now being applied to patient care. A brief response to the question “how is our growing knowledge of cancer genetics impacting on cancer research and cancer medicine?” is to say “it’s complicated – and exciting!” That is not a very helpful answer. Here, I will summarize the big picture with the understanding that this brief summary will not even touch on some of the rapidly evolving, nuanced, yet very exciting concepts in cancer genetics.
Let’s start out with a review and discussion of why the genetics revolution in cancer is so important.
This past weekend I was so very, very happy to be alive.
My daughter got married to a wonderful young man I am now proud to call my son-in-law. My extended family and friends gathered for a fantastic celebration with eating, dancing, laughter, and deep joy in being together. All aspects of the weekend were magical: the way the bride and groom looked at each other, the perfect weather, one fantastic gathering after another, and my ability to get through my toast to the bride and groom at the wedding reception without turning into a sobbing mess (tears came later, which was just fine). It was, no doubt, one of the highlights of my life, and one I will cherish forever.
Cancer was also there. Neither of my parents saw their oldest granddaughter get married – both died of cancer many years ago. An aunt and uncle who have dealt with cancer were able to attend. So did my little sister who is in the middle of a course of chemotherapy and has no hair. She did not let cancer interfere with her enthusiasm and joined us in all aspects of the celebration. She looked fantastic in a wig that, dare I say, looked at least as good as her natural hair (sorry, sis …). Continue reading →
This week, I have been reviewing research grant applications for the National Cancer Institute, including a number of grants proposing detailed evaluation of the gene mutations that can cause cancer. After spending hours looking at figures and data, I needed a break from mutations and decided to watch a movie. One that has been on my “I should see that someday” list for some time is “X-men.” So much for taking a break from mutations. For those of you who are not familiar with “X-men,” it features a group of mutant humans with unique powers. There are good mutants and bad mutants, epic battles, heroes and villains, etc., etc. I won’t go into the details of the plot, but simply say it is worth seeing if you like special effects and over-the-top science fiction action, but not so much if you are a stickler for scientific plausibility.
Nevertheless, the movie certainly solidified “mutations” as my theme for the day, and got me thinking about the nugget of scientific truth that is the basis of the movie’s plot – namely the good and bad of mutations. So … I will put Wolverine, Sabertooth, and Magneto on hold for a moment, and talk about actual mutations. Continue reading →