Too often, families are left without solace as they leave hospitals without their loved ones that lost their battles with cancer or disease.
It’s these moments that scientists are working feverishly to correct. After 13 years and $3 billion in spending, scientists completed the Human Genome Project. The project was formed to identify all of the genes in human DNA, as well as determine the chemical pairs that make up the DNA.
By understanding the effects of DNA variation, scientists will be able to find new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. In the past year alone, this deeper understanding of the human genome has led to the development of personalized cancer drugs, as well as new therapy treatments.
Last year, esteemed tech entrepreneur Steve Jobs, underwent genome testing to better gauge his battle with pancreatic cancer. Although no solutions developed and Jobs has now passed, it exemplifies the sort of popularity the public is finding in having genome testing done. The concept of “clinical genomics” has begun to take off.
Genome scientific research is far advanced, but the public must understand that it has not quite translated into a diagnostic tool. Scientists are urging industry leaders, including physicians, to inform the public of its current usage.
Genomic sequences contain a large amount of information that must be thoroughly researched and understood. Even after clinical testing, the results may not be conclusive. Scientists are now able to compare the genomic sequence of a cancerous tumor to a healthy genome sequence. Although this research is valuable, it does not give a lead on how to treat the tumor.
While a treatment for cancer has not been discovered, this research may lead to further testable hypotheses for treatments. Without accurate data physicians can easily do irreparable damage to the sequence, and more importantly, the patient.
Although the genome project has made great strides forward, there is still much to learn before using it as a tool to cure and treat disease.
“If you have enough money, you can do genomic testing for everyone,” says Doug Hawkins, associate division chief of hematology/oncology at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.
“But the real proof will be in whether you can achieve better outcomes. Until then, it’s just another expensive test.”
Though this scientific breakthrough is nothing more than a step forward in clinical research, it is a fundamental necessity for moving from a hypothesis to a finite cure.
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