Big Ideas

Rameen Beroukhim, M.D., Ph.D.

November 6, 2013

The Cancer Genome Atlas, a project launched by America’s National Institutes of Health, has assembled genetic data on thousands of tumors and made it available to anyone who wants to analyze it. Thanks to these DNA sequencing studies, researchers have unprecedented information on the molecular changes that propel cancer. Dr. Rameen Beroukhim, a 2009 V Scholar, is one of the researchers making sense of the data and putting it to use. He has examined almost 5,000 specimens from 11 traditionally defined types of cancer and found 140 regions of DNA that were sometimes either multiplied repeatedly or deleted altogether. Only 35 of these regions contained either genes known to suppress tumors or oncogenes, which, when mutated, encourage cancers to form. The Cancer Genome Atlas is part of a wider effort – the International Cancer Genome Consortium – that is cataloging genetic abnormalities in 50 traditionally defined types of cancer. The goal is to determine how cancer first develops.