© Adam Gault/Getty Images


The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003 after having identified and mapped the approximately 20,500 genes that are distributed through the 46 human chromosomes. This scientific achievement is equivalent to the discovery of a 20,500-page encyclopedia, with each page containing a section of the secret of human life.

The challenge now is not only to learn how to interpret what these pages are telling us, but also to find a way to discover how the organism works. Knowledge of the human genome may have great benefits for cancer treatment. Here are two examples to help us understand this.

© David Mack/Getty Images
Breast cancer

The first is that the genome study relating to breast cancer has allowed researchers to determine that this disease has four types, from one (Luminal A) that can be easily cured to another (triple negative) that barely responds to treatment. In a near future, the moment breast cancer is diagnosed, not only will the patient know that she has cancer, but the doctor will be able to specify the type of cancer, revealed by genome analysis of the tumor.

Studying cancers that respond well to treatments

The other application is to study the genome of cancers that respond very well to treatments, a characteristic that has astonished doctors and patients for quite some time, and would explain the marvel caused when a certain person’s cancer was cured even though “she was only given six months to live.”

By getting to know the genetic characteristics of these tumors that have responded well, it would be possible to design medicine that could turn a “bad response” tumor into one of a very good response, and therefore cure what was once an incurable tumor.