Human genome sequence helps target cancer

The human genome is being used to produce a new generation of drugs that target the genetic changes responsible for individual cancers.

Information from the sequencing of the human genome has already provided elegant new drugs, says Paul Workman, director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics.

Imatinib, a drug used in cases of chronic myeloid leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumours, is one example. Drugs like this target specific mutations in cancer cells and significantly reduce the toxicity associated with more traditional, less selective treatments.

Treatments linked directly to cancer genomics also hold the promise of personalised drugs to match the molecular make-up of individual patient's tumours.

There are challenges associated with this genetic approach, not least the development of drug resistance. Workman believes that these challenges will be overcome within the next 10 years.

Chris Incles