The key to treating cancer may lie in understanding its genes

Sep 10, 2012

A national consortium of scientists has sequenced the genome of a common type of lung cancer. The work suggests that the key to treating cancer may lie in understanding its genes.

Washington University helped lead the study, which mapped and analyzed genetic mutations in squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.

The director of Wash U’s Genome Center, Richard Wilson, says the study identified mutations in lung tumors that are also found in other types of cancer.

He says the work suggests the genetics of cancer are more important than where it first appears in the body.

“I think we have to get away from this characterization of tumors based on what tissue they arise in. We’ve got to get to a point where we’re able to use breast cancer drugs for lung cancer, and vice versa.”

Wilson calls cancer “a disease of the genome,” and says the medical community needs to start treating it that way.