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A Many-Headed Beast


Cancer is like the mythical many-headed Hydra beast — cut off one head and two more grow back in its place. Like Hercules, researchers must take multiple approaches in their attempts to slay the beast. Complicating the matter is that cancer is not just a single disease, but a name under which many disorders fall, adding to the issues that researchers must deal with. I recently sat down with a group of cancer researchers to talk about the state of the field, and I was reminded that there will never be just one cure for cancer — each monstrous head needs its own remedy.

For our seventh annual cancer issue, Genome Technology looks back on some of the advances of the past year — and there were many to choose from. Here, we aim to give a sampling of the work that is going on in cancer research today. While each study or project on its own may be incremental, together they may add up to something bigger.

Other articles this month follow on the issue's main theme. In her column, Meredith Salisbury discusses one of the limitations facing researchers right now: the dearth of accessible high-quality samples for high throughput analysis. She adds that biobanks need to catch up with the requirements of recent technological advancements. Tracy Vence writes about a collaboration among clinical cytogeneticists who aim to develop standardized, platform-neutral arrays to quickly and accurately diagnose cancer. And in this month's Q&A, Matthew Dublin speaks with Ben-Gurion University's Amos Douvdevani about his efforts to refine an assay to diagnose colorectal cancer. Douvdevani's method appears to be prognostic of both disease and outcome.

Elsewhere, Christie Rizk reports on the state of emulsion PCR. She says that many researchers are tweaking the approach to suit their own needs, which span a variety of projects, not just for sequencing. In addition, Matt looks into how structural variation research is informing advances in personalized medicine.

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.