Cancer is not one disease, but many.Even looking specifically at breast cancer or sarcoma, the more researchers study these diseases, the more they understand that there are many different kinds of breast cancer and sarcoma.This has been one of the most challenging aspects of researching cures for cancer.This month is National Cancer Research Awareness Month, and 23andMe is highlighting our work in cancer research. We’re also talking to some of the people involved in the research and letting you know about some of the more exciting developments in the field.
Earlier this year, George Demetri, a doctor and scientist who is an unpaid advisor to our Sarcoma research initiative, noted how different sarcomas were. Not just under the microscope but when you look at them at the genetic level. Dr. Demetri said, this is where 23andMe’s research model offers so much promise. Using genetics may help us connect the right patient to the right drug. It can help change the one size fits all approach to clinical research and it holds the promise of other targeted medicines.Scientists have found specific mutations that drive specific forms of cancer. There is already a long list of successes, Demetri said, whether from a drug that targets the HER2 protein in certain types of breast-cancer, or from the use of Gleevec to target a specific protein in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.
Right now, 23andMe has three studies focused on cancer.We first applied our unique research platform to study cancer in April 2010 with the launch of our Sarcoma Research Initiative. We are already very close to reaching our goal of enrolling 1,000 people with the disease. Last summer we launched a Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Research Initiative to study this group of very rare blood cancers. More than 650 patients have joined this research project in just 9 months, and we announced our first research finding earlier this year. Finally, we’ve joined forces with Genentech to start a unique online breast cancer study to look at how genes influence a person’s response to treatment for metastatic breast cancer.In each of these studies we believe we can change how clinical trials and cancer research is done. We want to make it cost less and take less time. We want to leverage the power of the web to bring down some of the barriers to participate and give people access to their genetic data in the process.23andMe was started on this premise, and our research communities are the embodiment of that goal. Patients from all over the world can contribute directly to research and connect with others who have their disease, all while learning more about themselves.We are also always looking for other genetic associations with cancer, and currently have two separate Cancer Family History Surveys, one for men and one for women.We hope that over time this work will lead to important breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting more stories about cancer, the research going on to fight the disease and some of the people at the forefront of that work. Stay tuned.