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Up to the Task


Cancer is an ever-morphing collection of diseases, making understanding its inner workings complicated. This year, as always, many 'omics researchers have taken up the challenge to elucidate cancer a little bit further.

For our 8th annual cancer issue, Genome Technology highlights advances and insights gleaned by researchers during the past year. New tools like those of synthetic biology are being put to use trying to rein cancer in. Drug delivery could be mediated by cell surface proteins, Harvard's George Church tells Christie Rizk in her look into his new DNA nanobot tool to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumors. And more researchers, like the University of Michigan's Arul Chinnaiyan, are combining transcriptome, exome, and whole-genome sequencing data to get a more comprehensive look at tumor type and behavior.

In a roundtable discussion this month, GT speaks with a number of cancer experts about cancer sequencing projects, the need for functional genomics studies, and more, beginning on page 44.

Also in this issue, Tracy Vence discusses how PCR-based and other diagnostic tools are being developed or adapted for point-of-care use. Such tests must be easy to use, and amenable to settings with limited resources to make an impact on patient care.

Elsewhere this month, Christie examines the burgeoning world of pharmacometabolomics. Researchers taking this approach to study drug response aim to bring together the best of pharmacogenomics — pinpointing relevant genes — and metabolomics — integrating environmental effects. In particular, researchers have found that a SNP in the glycine dehydrogenase gene is related to response to SSRIs.

With all these approaches, data analysis is ever the problem. In this month's Brute Force column, Matthew Dublin writes that both academic and industry groups are trying to tame the cloud. Both are working to make cloud computing for data analysis seamless and simple, and Matt provides an update on those efforts.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.