The following is an edited excerpt.
As scientists, we seek to investigate the world through observation, classification, and prediction, but every distinction we make dissolves once we look closely enough: even the line between life and non-life is blurred.
Cancer geneticists are only now running up against this as we attempt to decipher the specific changes to the genetic code responsible for driving cancer progression. To develop a specific drug for a specific cancer, we need to be able to tell the difference between a cancer cell and a healthy cell in a meaningful way.
Changes that occur in the genome during cancer initiation and progression involve massive genetic rearrangements, damage, and mutation. This makes it difficult to distinguish between causes and consequences of the cancer.
Read the full story here: Scicurious Guest Writer! Beyond the code: addressing complexity in cancer genetics
- “News from the Front in War on Cancer–Mission Not Accomplished,” Scientific American
An article about how, while scientists can now sequence a person’s DNA, they still can’t tell what the results of the test really mean, in terms of propensity for cancer.
- “Detailed Genetic Tests Reveal Cancer’s Complexity,” NPR
Discusses a study in which scientists took samples from multiple places in one tumor and found wide genetic variations in the result.
- “Fifty genome sequences reveal breast cancer’s complexity,” Nature
Discusses a study from 2011 in which scientists found remarkable diversity in the genetic code of breast cancer cells across many patients.