Abstract Science: Apr. 4-8
Why we need a cancer moonshot, how genomic tools are transforming how we approach cancer therapeutics and why CRISPR may not work in HIV cure research. This week in Abstract Science.
(NEJM, 4/4/2016, Douglas Lowy and Francis Collins)
Others have declared war on cancer. But US President Barack Obama's push to galvanize research efforts against cancer is needed now in order to take advantage of new scientific insights and technological innovations that are helping to transform what we know and how we study this leading disease and cause of death, the director of the National Cancer Institute and the director of the US National Institutes of Health noted in a good perspective this week. The new initiative will help inspire a new generation of American visionaries to "defy the boundaries of current knowledge about cancer," they said.
(GEN, 4/4/2016, Patricia Fitzpatrick Dimond)
As an avalanche of genomic studies begins to reveal multiple potential drug targets in individual tumors, researchers need to focus more on finding magic "shotguns" to fight the disease. These new etiological and somatic genetic events driving some cancers, such as breast cancer, should be used to set priorities for clinical trials, experts say. But moving tumor genomics to clinical oncology presents some practical challenges, including figuring out how to make altered genes designed to target certain mutations "druggable."
(New Scientist, 4/7/2016, Andy Coghlan)
Scientists engaged in HIV cure research may be overly optimistic about using CRISPR to clear the virus from host cells. A McGill University study found that using the gene editing tool to cut up the viral DNA and disable it, sometimes introduced genetic "scar tissue" that made the virus stronger and able to replicate even faster. Moreover, because the refigured DNA looked different, the CRISPR no longer recognized it, essentially making the virus resistant to CRISPR. The findings, which appeared in Cell Reports, represent a setback for the HIV cure researchers, who have been eyeing CRISPR as an up-and-coming strategy to clear virus from host cells, including latently-infected cells where the virus can remain undetected for years.
—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery