A City of Hope pioneer is drawing the map of cancer's impact on patients' DNA
|Dr. Gerd Pfeifer explores important chemical changes that take place in the DNA of tumor cells.|
A City of Hope researcher is one of eight scientists nationwide chosen by the federal government to spearhead a project that could transform our understanding of how cancer affects cell and gene biology. It's exciting proof of how your support of City of Hope is empowering some of the world's most important cancer research.
Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D., professor and chair of City of Hope's division of biology, has received the largest of eight grants given by the National Institutes of Health for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project. TCGA hopes to map all the genetic changes to an individual's DNA sequence associated with all types of cancer, and to develop innovative technologies to detect and treat the disease. Dr. Pfeifer's work will focus on the genetic impact of lung cancer.
Dr. Pfeifer's work on this project grows out of his City of Hope team's earlier work on a process known as "methylation," the chemical changes to DNA that can occur in cancer. In certain genes, methylation can lead to malignancy.
His research for TCGA will involve studying cancer tumor samples to track the process of methylation. A second objective will be to develop more sensitive tests than any that currently exist. This will allow malignant cancers to be detected sooner, improving doctors' ability to save patients' lives.
"Currently, we have technologies to determine risk factors for other cancers" like breast and prostate cancer, Dr. Pfeifer explains. "This is a major reason the five-year survival rate for those cancers is more than 80 percent. But for lung cancer, the survival rate is maybe 15 percents because it cannot be detected early."
When complete, The Cancer Genome Atlas will be published online, forming a resource for scientists and doctors everywhere. This is just one more example of how your generous partnership with City of Hope is having an impact -- not only in our Duarte hospital and labs, but for cancer patients around the world!