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Using Systems Biology to Beat Cancer

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals CEO Robert Mulroy says the traditional approach to cancer — making drugs that go after certain proteins — is "fundamentally flawed," according to the Forbes' Treatments blog's Robert Langreth. Merrimack is now working with Sanofi-Aventis to develop cancer drugs using the principles of systems biology. Instead of working with one gene at a time, researchers from the two companies are using differential equations, computer simulations and good old-fashioned bench work to understand how molecular circuits go wrong in cancer patients, Langreth says. "The goal is to try to find the best place to intervene with a drug, rather than just going after whatever tumor gene mutation happened to be discovered most recently," he adds. Mulroy says it's important to understand the underlying logic of molecular circuitry in order to understand how cancer cells grow, and that the circuits are too complex to be understood by studying one gene at a time.

The Scan

Ancient Greek Army Ancestry Highlights Mercenary Role in Historical Migrations

By profiling genomic patterns in 5th century samples from in and around Himera, researchers saw diverse ancestry in Greek army representatives in the region, as they report in PNAS.

Estonian Biobank Team Digs into Results Return Strategies, Experiences

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics outline a procedure developed for individual return of results for the population biobank, along with participant experiences conveyed in survey data.

Rare Recessive Disease Insights Found in Individual Genomes

Researchers predict in Genome Medicine cross-population deletions and autosomal recessive disease impacts by analyzing recurrent nonallelic homologous recombination-related deletions.

Genetic Tests Lead to Potential Prognostic Variants in Dutch Children With Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Researchers in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine found that the presence of pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants was linked to increased risk of death and poorer outcomes in children with pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy.