Understanding the genomic basis for cancer

Understanding the genomic basis for cancer

July 1, 2002

Cancer is a genetic disease. Multiple genomic changes are involved in its initiation and progression. The identification of these changes and their relevance to tumorigenesis is essential for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Unfortunately, classical cytogenetics is not particularly sensitive and is unable to detect the genomic changes associated with the onset of malignancy.

With infrastructure support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, researchers at Winnipeg's Genomic Centre for Cancer Research and Diagnosis (GCCRD) are working to improve the chances of better identifying these genomic changes.

The GCCRD is affiliated with the University of Manitoba, and part of the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology—an institute dedicated to fundamental research in biology and its relation to health, with a primary emphasis on cancer and related diseases. With some of Canada's most advanced equipment and techniques for genomic analysis, the GCCRD's goals include basic and translational research, as well as education of highly qualified personnel in genomic instability, cancer genetics, and imaging. The centre's activities recently expanded to include projects in molecular biology, cell biology, histopathology, and genetic diseases.

Led by researchers Sabine Mai, Director of Basic Research, and James Johnston, Director of Clinical Research, the GCCRD is providing a regional, national, and international resource for complete genomic analysis of chromosomal changes in premalignant and malignant cells. This allows researchers to better understand the genomic basis for cancer and the changes associated with its progression. Understanding these genetic alterations will assist in cancer diagnosis and prognosis, and will allow the design of techniques for treatment and the reversal of drug resistance.

The centre is working in partnership with biotechnology companies so that new findings can be translated into diagnostic/prognostic products. The development of diagnostic and prognostic markers in cancer will allow patients to receive the most appropriate treatment, and has the potential to greatly improve the quality of their lives.