Sequencing Kids’ Genomes To Learn How Cancer Grows

Ever since we sequenced the first human genome, projects that involve delving into genes have exploded–scientists even recently just sequenced marijuana’s genome. Now, a new project aims to look at some slightly younger genes. One thousand children will have their genomes sequenced by Complete Genomics, a California-based whole human genome sequencing company, for a big study on pediatric cancer.

Comparing the genomes of tumor cells in cancer patients to healthy cells, sometimes at different times in the tumor’s life, is one way researchers learn more about how the cancer grows and lives, paving the way for possible treatment methods. This particular study is being carried out by SAIC-Frederick, a company associated with the National Cancer Institute. Complete Genomics will earn $8 million for its participation, paid for by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (you might know that as the stimulus bill).

Whole genome sequencing is an expensive and elaborate affair that demands technology as well as the know-how and resources to collate and interpret the reams and reams of sequencing data that result from it. Complete Genomics’ goal is to serve as one-stop-shop for researchers’ sequencing needs. 

Early this year, the Institute for Systems Biology tapped Complete Genomics to sequence 615 genomes for a study on neurodegenerative diseases, the latest and largest of a series of partnerships between the two organizations.

In this study, the research teams hope to speed up the development of therapies and treatments for the most common kinds of devastating childhood cancers. If studies like these are successful, their benefit goes beyond giving researchers insights into the disease they’re studying–each genome sequenced makes the process cheaper, more accessible, and open to broader application.

[Image: Flickr user andylepp]

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow Nidhi on TwitterNS