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Lander Lauds Next-Gen, Calls for National Cancer DB

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The 10th anniversary of the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference held in Marco Island, Fla., was the largest in its history — and, as many speakers noted, that's due to the tremendous interest in next-gen sequencing.

Eric Lander gave one of the meeting's keynote talks, telling attendees that the world of genome sequencing has "at no time … been more exciting" than it is right now. He likened today's sequencers to approaching the utility of desktop computers: "We can begin to think about sequencing as a general-purpose tool," he said. Part of that is evident in the range of applications for which sequencing is now being used: epigenomics, mutation discovery, transcription profiling, and more, he added.

Lander said that the community still has a lot to learn about sequencing and about what can be gleaned from sequencing. As far as variation for common diseases, he said, "We've learned that we've barely scratched the surface," adding that for each disease it's likely that thousands of patients will have to be sequenced to find answers. And he thinks that sequencing error rates will have to get even better, noting that for cancer in particular, even a 99.99 percent accuracy rate won't allow scientists to find the relevant mutations. "We'll all get very sophisticated about error rates," he said.

In a panel discussion also held at the Marco Island meeting, Lander called for the creation of an American Cancer Consortium, which he described as a national database that would have genome sequences and all clinical records for cancer patients.

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