Aurhor: Sharon Schmickle

The number 1,000 is emerging as a standard benchmark on the frontiers of genomic research.

In the 1000 Genomes Project — launched two years ago — American, British, Chinese and German scientists are sequencing the genomes of some 1,000 individuals from around the world in order to aid medical research as it relates to human genetic variation.

Then there’s the goal of the $1,000 genome. Reduce the cost of accurately spelling an individual’s DNA to that level and we could see practical results from decades of genomic discovery — even at the clinical level. A research team from Complete Genomics Inc. in Mountain View, California, reported progress in that regard this week in the journal Science.

Now comes a new report from the “1,000 tumor” project at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology.

The Chicago scientists are working toward the goal of collecting and analyzing the genetic sequences and variations of every gene expressed by 1,000 tumors. One year into the three-year project, they have completed data for genes expressed by 100 tumors — primarily breast cancer, head and neck cancer, and leukemia. In the process, they have streamlined techniques for analyzing the remaining 900 tumors.

Meanwhile, by correlating genetic data with patient outcomes, the Chicago team has begun to identify genetic patterns within tumors that may help them predict how a cancer will behave. Eventually, the research should help identify which patients would benefit from which treatments.

We must have at least 1,000 genome projects around the world at this point in the research. Has anyone bothered to count?

The Mayo Clinic reported in November that its cancer research team in Arizona has completed its first whole human genome sequencing on a patient with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Among other information, they captured an entire snapshot of the patient’s cancer cells through various stages of the disease.

Mayo teams in Rochester, Minn., are working on other genomic studies as are scientists at the University of Minnesota.

This will be a great field to watch in this new decade.

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