Underscores transformational impact on study and treatment of cancer
Ten years after the completion of the first draft of the human genome, the public and media are looking for evidence of its impact on treating disease and wondering whether the large-scale project was worth the financial investment.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and a renowned physician and geneticist who led the Human Genome Project to completion in 2003, argues that the genome's cynics are underestimating the long-term impact of the project. "Human genome research is an epic drama being played out year after year, in sequel after exciting sequel," he wrote in a recent commentary published by the Scientific American.
Collins pointed out cancer research as one area that is being transformed by the study of genomics. The Cancer Genome Atlas, he noted, is already yielding new discoveries that could lead to improved, personalized treatment for patients suffering from a fast-growing form of malignant brain cancer as well as ovarian cancer.
The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that, while the revolution in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases that was forecasted a decade ago has not yet fully transpired, the human genome sequence has had a transformational impact on the study of biology. According to a recent poll of more than 1,000 life scientists conducted by Nature, 69 percent of participants said that the human genome projects inspired them either to become a scientist or to change the direction of their research. And nearly one-third use the sequence "almost daily" in their research.
"It is my hope and expectation that over the next one or two decades—or however long it takes—genomic discoveries will lead to an increasingly long list of health benefits for all the world's peoples," concluded Collins.
More from the July Edition of the AACR Cancer Policy Monitor: