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Cancer scientists call for a large-scale human epigenome project

A vast code, invisible to the DNA sequencing effort that constituted the Human Genome Project, is rapidly being shown to play a direct role in human health. This "epigenome" - from the Greek epi, meaning "in addition to" - consists of chemical "amendments" that dangle like charms on a bracelet from the linear string of letters that spell out the genetic code.

Now, an international group of 40 leading cancer scientists says the time is ripe to undertake a large-scale international "Human Epigenome Project" designed to map the chemical modifications to DNA that comprise the epigenetic code. Their proposal, "A Blueprint for a Human Epigenome Project" -- published in the December 15, 2005 issue of Cancer Research -- summarizes the findings of an AACR-sponsored workshop held June 15-18, 2005, in Lansdowne, Va.

"Definition of the human epigenome and its application to developing diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic tools will likely produce some of the earliest translational research benefits flowing from large-scale genome initiatives to the bedside," said Frank Rauscher, III, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Cancer Research.

"It is time to create a concerted international effort to unlock the epigenomic information stored in our genome and use it for the benefit of human health," he added.

The new report spells out the needs, guidelines and expectations of a Human Epigenome Project (HEP), and describes the developing technologies that make the project currently feasible.

"One of the most exciting points to emerge from the meeting is that the technology needed for doing epigenetics on a high-throughput basis has advanced so far that people are already engaged in epigenomic studies on a piecemeal basis," said Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D. Sc., president of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and Director of the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California. Jones and Robert Martienssen
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Contact: Warren R. Froelich
froelich@aacr.org
215-440-9300
American Association for Cancer Research
15-Dec-2005


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