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UNC researchers part of global effort to unlock mystery of cancer, develop better treatments

April 18, 2018 GMT

Faster DNA and RNA sequencing technology is helping to unlock the mysteries of different cancers and develop more effective and less difficult treatment options.

University of North Carolina researchers are playing a major role in the global effort called “The Cancer Genome Atlas,” which could lead to more targeted cancer treatments.

For over a decade, researchers on the project have been combing through a massive cancer puzzle.

The medical tools at UNC-Chapel Hill’s High Throughput Sequencing Facility map billions of genes and their components more quickly than ever before.

In a study in the journal “CELL,” UNC cancer genomics researcher Dr. Katie Hoadley said the results reveal relationships across tumor types.

“So, in the end, we had over 10,000 cancers from 33 different tumor types,” Hoadley said.

Images help researchers see connections between different cancers, leading them to the cellular origins of cancers.

“It’s not just one event that’s giving rise to these different cancers,” Hoadley said. “There’s numerous different types of events that lead to these cancers.”

The data is now freely available to researchers around the world. With hundreds of thousands of different cancer causes, a global approach is needed to turn the data into clinical applications.

“Understanding this complexity really is the starting point to being able to really start to personalize treatment and understand how we can better treat these diseases,” Hoadley said.