The next generation of genome studies

You may have heard that an international team of more than 440 scientists has published 30 studies detailing discoveries from a five-year investigation into the human genome. By all accounts, the results are mind-boggling.The project, called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE, tries to make sense of the unknown part of the human genome. It seems that about 80 percent of DNA that was once thought to be "junk" is actually responsible for regulating all of the genes.Gina Kolata from The New York Times did a great job of explaining the project and its implications on human health, so I won't try to reinvent the wheel here. But it suffices to say that scientists will soon have what they need to fight diseases much more effectively than ever before.I asked our editor-in-chief, Debu Tripathy, MD, for his take on the news and its possible impact on cancer. He said this is "just the beginning of the story--we now have a better atlas of the genetic defects in cancer, but it will take time to understand how to target these genetic defects."He added that it will take some time to sort out and start to validate which of these mutations are real drivers and then to develop drugs to target them. We're planning a feature on next-generation gene sequencing, so stay tuned to CURE to help you understand the genetic basis for cancer and new avenues for therapy.