What 132 Billion Data Points Per Patient Mean

Pancreatic cancer whole genome sequencing uncovering potential new targets

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Whole genome sequencing, or WGS, spells out all 3 billion letters in the human genome. It’s being used now to learn more about pancreatic cancer, and the findings may change the outlook for this disease.

Scientists have examined and sequenced the whole genome of patients with the most common type of pancreatic cancer. The exquisitely complex process unveiled a total of 142 genetic changes.

This study could be the first step toward finding multiple ways to identify and attack pancreatic cancer.

"Make sure your doctor knows who in your family has had cancer."

These are the findings of a new study from Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Mayo Clinic and Scottsdale Healthcare.

Study authors said this work “represents a compelling solution to obtaining detailed molecular information on tumor biopsies in order to provide guidance for therapeutic selection,"

Researchers examined three patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

The study generated an average of 132 billion data points for each patient. This massive data identified 142 what the authors called “genetic coding events.”

Some of these may be targets for new drugs that can treat pancreatic cancer.

"Cancer, and specifically here pancreatic cancer, is a highly complex disease that ultimately will require a variety of treatment methods to control, and ultimately to cure," said study author, Daniel Von Hoff, MD, FACP, TGen's physician-in-chief and chief scientific officer for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare.

“Winnie Liang, PhD, assistant director of TGen’s Collaborative Sequencing Center and one of the study authors, told dailyRx News, this study also marks "the beginning of the establishment of a genomic encyclopedia of pancreatic cancer. Thus, in addition to the enormous benefits on personalized medicine, studies such as these also helps us to understand what molecular events define pancreatic cancer. As more patients are sequenced, the knowledge that we accumulate will deepen our understanding of pancreatic cancer and will provide a foundation for developing and identifying improved therapeutics," Dr. Liang said.

The study was published October 11 in PLOS ONE.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
October 10, 2012