The mapping of the human genome in 2003, through The Human Genome Project, is one of the most important medical discoveries of all times. The human genome, in conjunction with cancer genomics, is presently being studied by researchers. As reported by the American Cancer Institute, cancer genomics is the study of the cancer genome. The cancer genome involves the current study of twenty different cancers and their genetic changes. Some of the cancers being genetically studied include brain cancers, gynecologic cancers, cancers of the head and neck, and skin cancers. By identifying cancer-causing genes researchers believe that there will be cures for all cancers in the future.
Medical researchers believe that cancer causing agents, called carcinogens, can cause mutations, or changes, to the DNA and its genes. Known carcinogens include asbestos, radon, ultraviolet radiation, and chlorine. Because carcinogens can change DNA and its genes, cancerous tumors may occur as a result of stimulated cell growth caused by the mutations. Children can inherit these mutations, which is why cancer runs in families.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of mutant cells caused from cancer genes. In conjunction with cancer genomics, researchers are studying gene therapy for treatment of cancer. They are replacing genes that have been altered, due to mutations, with healthy genes in hoping to improve the human immune response to cancer in patients. By placing genes into cancer cells, it appears that the cancer cells are more responsive to cancer treatments, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It appears to also be stopping cancer cells from developing new blood vessels (angiogenesis). As with any tissue in the human body, if the blood supply is disrupted, the tissue dies. What that means to the treatment of cancers, is if the blood supply to the tumor can be stopped, the tumor will die.
A new drug for leukemia is considered a major find in the war with cancer. It is a “target-therapy” drug because it only targets the cancer cells. It causes few side effects in the cancer patients because it leaves healthy tissue intact. Radiation and chemotherapy, while killing cancer cells, also kills healthy cells. This is the reason why there are terrible and debilitating side effects with present conventional cancer treatments. The side effects of traditional cancer treatment include but are not limited to mental cloudiness, peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves of the extremities), extreme nausea and vomiting, hair loss, weakness and fatigue, and radiation burns.
Through the research currently being conducted involving cancer genomics (or what is commonly called cancer genetic research),it is believed that cures for cancers will be found in the future, and that cancers will no longer cause such debilitating illness and death in people.