Last night at the AACR keynote session at Colorectal cancer: biology to Therapy, I listened to Bert Vogelstein’s talk on the cancer genome as applied to colorectal cancer.   It was a deja vu moment of sorts, as I started my current Moleskine at AACR earlier this year with keynotes from Charles Sawyers and Bert Vogelstein. It therefore seemed most apt to finish the current volume of science notes with another talk from the same person at another AACR meeting.

The other good thing about the talk for me is that I have a few circles around squiggles from my original notes – it was good to finally figure out what the chicken scratch was trying to tell me! You can see how bad the notes were from my iPhone shot at the time; it must happen to all of us at some point – hastily scribbled notes while listening and writing in one’s lap is a recipe for disaster icon smile The cancer genome

Now, I’m not going to repeat Vogelstein’s talk as you can read that from the link to the April Keynote, but what interested me most about this one is that he expanded the application of what we’ve learned from the biology to patients.  This is really important, because science is ultimately about truth and how that can be applied to improving things.

Vogelstein identified three key areas that he felt had most implications for cancer patients:

  1. Cancer predisposition
  2. Identifying important biomarkers for following people with cancer
  3. Improved methods of detection

The third point is particularly relevant as it was also something Tyler Jacks talked about at the recent Xconomy meeting in Boston.  Solid tumour cancers such as colorectal cancer can take 25-30 years to develop into a metastatic carcinoma, so finding ways to identify the mass much earlier will be critical to better treatments in the future.

Future Challenges

Vogelstein expanded his ideas into some key points for future research:

  1. Improved understanding of the pathways
  2. Development of novel therapies targeting the pathways
  3. Better early detection methods

Overall, it is clear that we have come a long way over the last decade, but there is still a lot of work to do but this task will be made much easier by a larger wealth of knowledge than we started out with.