It’s like an open directory project for cancer researchers.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has opened the doors of its massive database of genetic variations related to cancer to public use, paving the way for more studies and exposing more opportunities for researchers to tinker with treatments.
NCI Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology chief Dr. Yves Pommier issued a statement July 15 to stress the significance of this open access project. “Most anti-cancer drugs that are used today are used based on their empirical activity,” said Pommier in a news report. He shared that these drugs have a specific target, but “they have not been connected with any genomics.”
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy are not exact science, since each patient can experience a wide range of responses. As a result, doctors have to “guesstimate” the impact of a particular treatment on their cancer patients.
The huge database was built from 60 lines of human cancer cells. From this limited group, an array of genetic variations was created, suited for specific body parts and functions.
A number of drugs for cancer treatment have already been designed to target specific functions in the body, thereby limiting the activity of cancer cell growth. Roche, for instance, has developed Zelboraf, a drug that targets genetic mutations that lead to most cases of melanoma. NCI hopes that with the free access of researchers and pharmaceutical laboratories to the gene database, similar target-specific drugs can be developed.