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Studying Genes and Proteins Together Sheds New Light on Colon Cancer

May 28, 2019. By combining the study of genes and proteins in human colon cancer tumors, scientists have discovered new features of the disease that they believe have the potential to guide novel treatment strategies. What is proteogenomics The integrated study of genes and proteins, called proteogenomics, is a fairly new area of research intended to provide researchers with a greater understanding of biology—one that cannot be gained by studying genes alone. The scientists scoured the gene and protein “profiles” of colon tumors from more than 100 people, identifying several proteins that appear to drive colon cancer growthExit Disclaimer and could be potential drug targets. The study, published May 2 in Cell, was led by members of NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC), a collaborative effort to “discover major cancer-causing proteogenomic alterations” in several cancer types, said Henry Rodriguez, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research. In 2014, the CPTAC team completed the first large-scale proteogenomic study of colon cancer, which zeroed in on the basic characteristics of colon tumors. “A major focus of this new study was: Can we use proteogenomic integration to guide therapies?” said lead investigator Bing Zhang, Ph.D., of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Why Study Proteins? There’s no doubt that studying genes has revealed a trove of information about cancer biology. For example, scientists have used genetic data from tumors to predict how DNA changes may affect cancer cell behavior, such as uncontrolled growth. But DNA gives rise to RNA, which then generates proteins, and proteins are what actually drive cell behavior, Dr. Zhang noted. One important caveat of genetic studies is that the jump from genetic data to cell behavior isn’t always straightforward because “genetic mutations do not always result in the predicted change in the corresponding protein,” Dr. Rodriguez explained. “And there are many other factors that influence protein activity and contribute to tumor behavior.” In addition, studies have found that DNA and RNA data are not “sufficient, on their own, to dictate the optimal choice of anti-cancer agents with which to treat a particular patient’s tumor in…