Genetics is the study of genes; and Genomics is the study of gene products, how genes work.
Our tissues and organs are made up of tiny individual units called cells. Cells have an inner portion, or nucleus- the “brains”, and an outer body or working portion. In most human cells, the nucleus contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, composed of DNA, the program for life. Arrayed on these chromosomes are about 40,000 individual packets of DNA called genes. Each gene is the blue print for a particular protein.
We are born with these genes, inherited from each parent. Some are active while we are developing in mom’s uterus, others intermittently through life. Some promote growth, some turn growth off. We inherent some genes as defective, or mutated, which may result in a number of abnormalities, including a strong predisposition to the development of certain cancers. Examples of this are mutated BRCA1 And BRCA2 genes, which increase the risk of breast, ovary, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Throughout life, our genes are exposed to various noxious influences, which can cause them to mutate. These agents include everything from sunlight and cosmic radiation to chemicals like benzene, asbestos and those in cigarette smoke.
It is estimated that 5-10% of cancers are caused directly by the genes we inherit, while 70-80% are caused by environmental factors.
All cancers, ultimately are genetic. The genetic expression of cancers is the subject of Genomics. By studying the expression of cancer genes we can poetically learn ways to block cancer growth. Presently, your doctors at MOHC are subjecting all advanced cancers to genomic testing; and applying those results to new treatments for cancer, including clinical trials. Over 500 genes are presently routinely tested.