Year in review: Cancer genetics grows up | Science News

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Year in review: Cancer genetics grows up

Not all mutations are alike, or problematic

6:51am, December 15, 2015
melanoma cells

INDIVIDUALITY  Genetic analyses of tumors (melanoma cells shown) offer great promise for improving diagnoses and treatment, but new studies show that not all mutations can be treated equally.

Personalized genomics has been heralded as the next big weapon in the war on cancer. But researchers analyzing various tissue types this year, looking for mutations linked to the disease, have found that not all genetic alterations should be targeted equally.

“Genetics is changing oncology for the good,” says Benjamin Kipp, an expert in clinical genetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “But overinterpretation can harm the patient.”

Genetic profiles of tumors offer unprecedented opportunities for both cancer diagnostics and for doctors planning treatment. Bowel cancer tumors with mutations in the KRAS gene, for example, respond poorly to the drug cetuximab; the skin cancer drug vemurafenib works only if melanomas have a particular mutation in the BRAF gene.

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