UNC CH is Working On New Treatments

Dr. Charles Perou and his team of researchers at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill are digging into TCGA towards more effective cancer treatments. One of his colleagues, Dr. Michael Gatza, is finding common themes in cancer development through studies of the collaborative genome sequence and analysis. He presents potential targets for treatment drugs that were once unknown “to create an approach to identify genes that were not only implicated in the growth of breast cancer but that were also essential for cancer cells to  survive” (Resnick 2014). Subtypes of cancer can have limited treatment options, such as luminal breast cancer, which often have mutations within similar genes between patients, however the many differences in its diagnosis make it very difficult to treat (Resnick 2014). At the top of Figure 1, different subtypes of breast cancer are separated into columns and on the right side of the figure, the names of all the pathways Dr. Gaza analyzed. Each red mark indicates upregulation of the pathway while a blue mark indicates downregulation. Different subtypes use different pathways, however the subtypes recorded here are similar within subtypes (Resnick 2014). Dr. Gatza found that this cancer consistently works on the same cancer pathways, creating observable targets for specialized treatment.


Figure 1: Genomic sequencing of subtypes of breast cancer, Figure 1a Gatza, M.L.

With this new research, genes can become targets for new treatments “using genetic techniques to turn off these genes causing the luminal cancer cells to die” (Resnick 2014). This research has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment. People like Joe Simpson could walk away from a diagnosis with a clear and optimistic treatment plan, one where they can continue to live a life with a head full of hair and future ahead of them.


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