This past March 27 marks a momentous date in the fight against cancer. Scienceblog.com reports that the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study (COGS) is the name for a large international effort involving more than 100 institutions and genetic tests on 200,000 men and women worldwide who participated in the study. Genetic investigators came from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia to take part in this landmark undertaking.
The findings have uncovered dozens of signposts in DNA that can help reveal a person's risk for breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. Scientists used scans of DNA from volunteers to seek out the markers in the DNA code that are associated with disease risk.
Breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women, results in over 1 million new cases every year. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men after lung cancer, with about 900,000 new cases every year. Ovarian cancer accounts for approximately 4 percent of all cancers diagnosed in women, with 225,000 cases worldwide according to a related report by Huffingtonpost.com.
What scientists were looking for were genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that indicate an increased risk for cancer. What they found were 49 new SNPs associated with risk of breast cancer including several others that modify breast cancer risk from rare mutated genes, between 23 to 26 for prostate cancer and 8 to 11 markers for ovarian cancer, depending upon the source. One of the most intriguing findings is that different SNPs predict the risk of different types of breast or ovarian cancer.
One of the scientists who contributed to the finding of new risk regions for breast and prostate cancer is Distinguished Professor Brian Henderson of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He said,
“This is far and away the largest genetic study of cancer ever to be reported…This study demonstrates the power of international team science that will ultimately provide major health benefits on a global scale.”
It impresses me to no end to discover what we can accomplish when we tackle such issues collectively. I do believe it is necessary to no longer look at health issues solely within our own national borders; especially issues like cancer which effect both men and women worldwide. It is encouraging to see that at least within the scientific community there is genuine cooperation which is often a problem when it comes to religions and politics.