Doctors and cancer researchers now have access to a new Web site that will help them to paint a complete genetic picture of tumor cells throughout the body. The site, unveiled today by Vice President Al Gore, is part of the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project (CGAP) funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Library of Medicine, and several drug and biotech companies.
Decades of research have demonstrated that cancer is caused by genetic changes in cells--mutations in the genes themselves and in the set of normal genes expressed in a particular cell. But clinical diagnosis and treatment of cancer currently rely largely on the location of tumor tissue in the body and its appearance under the microscope. CGAP seeks to allow doctors to check the active genes and proteins in human tissues, making possible earlier detection and more precise diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
The CGAP Web site is a complete database of the known active and silent genes in normal, precancerous, and tumor cells, indexed by type of cancer. Its first targets are lung, prostate, colon, breast, and ovarian cancer. Along with each gene sequence, the site provides links to databases of scientific papers, protein products, related genes, and maps of the human genome.
Comparing cancer research to a large jigsaw puzzle, Gore said the new Web site "gives us the confidence that we will have all of the pieces all together in the same place" in the search for cures. "It promises to help us unlock the deepest mysteries of cancer and many other killers." Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute, said he hopes CGAP "will become an international lab where scientists and researchers will come together." The address is: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ncicgap.