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Lee Hood Calls Cancer Genome Project Approach Nave, Says Signal-to-Noise Issues Will Confound Efforts

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Aug. 22 (GenomeWeb News) - Lee Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, has called the premise of the Cancer Genome Project "naïve," suggesting that signal-to-noise issues its researchers are likely to encounter will be "absolutely enormous."


Hood said the premise of the project -- as he put it, to sequence "to a certain extent" 250 genomes from four or five cancers with the aim of correlating the genetic differences of a particular cancer -- "is a naïve approach because the signal-to-noise issues ... from sequencing cancer genomes on six or seven dimensions are absolutely enormous."


"My suggestion is that we take one cancer ... from several thousand individuals ... and see if we can sort out these signal-to-noise issues," he said.


Hood made his remarks today during a news conference at the 12th European Congress on Biotechnology, held at the University of Copenhagen this week. Though he did not identify the Cancer Genome Project by name -- he said simply that "there is a new project that's being pushed in the US to take a ... genome approach to cancer" -- Hood later confirmed with a reporter he was talking about the Project.


Hood also said "there are other parts to [the Cancer Genome Project] that will look at the common amplifications and deletions that occur in cancer; genomic instability is a big part of cancer."


As GenomeWeb News reported earlier this month, the National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute plan to contribute $50 million each to kick off an effort to collect and analyze all the genetic mutations found in human cancers.


The commitment, which still requires approval from the institutes' scientific advisory boards and councils, comes after an NCI and NHGRI-sponsored workshop held in July sought input from members of the scientific community on how best to achieve the project's goal.


The pilot phase of the effort will "focus on addressing the wide range of challenges in cancer biology and technology that must be met in order to implement a successful large-scale human cancer genome project," according to the National Institutes of Health. "The initial phases also will analyze whether the comprehensive cataloguing of the sequence changes in cancer will prove useful in understanding cancer and lead to new methods of diagnosis and treatment."


Initial work on the pilot project, which is anticipated to take three years, is set to begin in 2006.

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