Several years ago, U.S. scientists launched a hugely ambitious project called the Cancer Genome Atlas.
It is a comprehensive and coordinated effort to increase our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. The project is doing that through the application of something called genome analysis, including large-scale genome sequencing.
After the project launched in 2006, its first target was the brain. Project leaders wanted to learn more about the most common and lethal of brain tumors — a cancer called gliobastoma multiforme, or GBM.
Eight years later, scientists have discovered new details about key genes, proteins and pathways of GBM. These findings may someday lead to a better understanding of the disease — and ultimately, to new treatments.
All of this is exciting to me, as someone who wants to understand all forms of cancer better — at the molecular level — so we can beat them all.
I’ll be talking about cancer and the brain during my Brain Awareness Season lecture this Monday evening, May 12. The lecture, sponsored by the OHSU Brain Institute, will begin at 7 pm. at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland.
Another thing I’ll be talking about is maybe a bit more surprising. We understand the connection between cancer and the brain with devastating brain tumors. But science is just beginning to understand something else: that the brain may influence aspects of our body’s physiology that in turn influence the behavior of cancers elsewhere in the body. It’s a fascinating new area of research.
And it might be another avenue toward our ultimate goal — beating all forms of cancer.