Cancer hope of genome project

June 30, 2000

The prevention and cure of several major cancers will be among the first fruits of the complete sequencing of the human genome, according to Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign.

He said this week that the genes for many cancers are already known and that it will now be possible to uncover the genes that predispose individuals to cancer.

Dr McVie said: "Much of the technology used in genetics was developed in cancer laboratories and is used there intensively." For example, DNA chips used to detect gene variation were piloted in cancer research. In addition, he said, cancer tissue was more accessible for comparison with healthy tissue than with other diseases.

Dr McVie said: "Genetic information could have a predictive power that would mean we could foresee cancers without the 20-year trials that are currently necessary. We could pick out high-risk people more easily and they could make allowances in their diet or lifestyle."

He added that it might also be possible to predict which groups are less at risk of developing cancers - even to tell who is less at risk from smoking. "If the cigarette companies had any sense they would market a kit that told you how much risk you were running," he said.

The Wellcome Trust, the main British participant in the genome sequencing effort, has set up a human cancer genome project at its genome centre near Cambridge to exploit knowledge produced by the Human Genome Project.

Research, page 32-33 Opinion and leader, page16 People, page 8

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