The "genetics generation" has much to be proud of, however. The mapping of the human genome in the late 1990s, the advent of high-output methods to comb through thousands of genes, and a deepening knowledge of the complexities of DNA and RNA are bringing new discoveries each week.
Some of the highlights from just the past year:
Last August, a U.S. team announced the first-ever gene test aimed at pinpointing which patients with early stage lung cancer will benefit from post-operative chemotherapy, and which can be spared the arduous treatment.
That same month, Canadian researchers reported on a new model to speed the identification of mutations linked to a silent killer, ovarian cancer. Spotting those genes could pinpoint women at risk.
A $100 million U.S. project called the Cancer Genome Atlas announced its first major achievement in September -- the mapping of genomes for breast and colon cancer. Scientists say they were able to identify 100 mutations thought responsible for each of those malignancies.
In March, British scientists reported that they had pinpointed 100 mutated genes that help drive more than 210 different cancer types. "This set of genes is known to regulate key functions in virtually all cell processes of growth, differentiation," researcher Andrew Futreal, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, said at the time.
And, in April, a team at Duke University said it had found genes that encourage breast cancer's spread to the lungs, as well as mutations that hamper chemotherapy's therapeutic effects.
It all looks very promising. But Lichtenfeld said that every DNA discovery has its downside, too.
"The more that we learn, the more complex it is going to get," he said.
Genetics Hold Promise, Challenges for Cancer Care - Yahoo! News
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