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Mapping the Monsters

Cancer-linked genetic mutations are mapped out for the first time.

By Linda Marsa
Feb 1, 2018 6:00 AMNov 18, 2019 3:43 AM


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Cancer cells are notoriously adept at survival, even exploiting vulnerabilities within an individual’s DNA to multiply and spread. In July, researchers at the Broad Institute mapped these cancer-linked genetic mutations, called cancer dependencies, for the first time.

“For decades, cancer was a black box, and we didn’t know which genes were important,” says research team leader William Hahn of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “The goal with the dependency map is to identify genes of consequence and reverse engineer what their action is, to devise better therapies.”

The team uncovered different kinds of dependencies that cancer cells exploit, such as underactive or overactive genes.

The Broad Institute’s visualization of the map, simplified here, illuminates both the complexity and interconnectedness of the genetic pathways that fuel tumor growth.

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