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From the Background to the Forefront

MD Anderson Cancer Center's Nicholas Navin started exploring single-cell sequencing as a sort of nights-and-weekend project during his postdoc, the American Association for the Advancement of Science says. Navin has just been awarded the AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award that recognizes promising early career cancer researchers.

"It was kind of a background project that I did in the lab mostly on weekends," Navin tells AAAS. "This was really kind of a high-risk project for me and something I had never [initially] told my advisor about."

As he writes in a related Science Translational Medicine piece, researchers' "poor understanding of clonal diversity [in tumors] stems from the fact that we cannot accurately measure it." Navin adds that he and his lab are now using single-cell sequencing approaches to study not only primary tumors, but also clonal diversity in invasion, metastasis, and the evolution of drug resistance.

Such single-cell sequencing approaches, he predicts, will become key in "early detection, prognostics, noninvasive monitoring, and guiding targeted therapy."

"Perhaps the most immediate clinical application is noninvasive monitoring, in which single-cell sequencing of CTCs can provide a 'liquid biopsy' of the primary and metastatic tumors to monitor therapy response," Navin adds.