The genetics and genomics of cancer

Allan Balmain, Joe Gray, Bruce Ponder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

460 Scopus citations


The past decade has seen great strides in our understanding of the genetic basis of human disease. Arguably, the most profound impact has been in the area of cancer genetics, where the explosion of genomic sequence and molecular profiling data has illustrated the complexity of human malignancies. In a tumor cell, dozens of different genes may be aberrant in structure or copy number, and hundreds or thousands of genes may be differentially expressed. A number of familial cancer genes with high-penetrance mutations have been identified, but the contribution of low-penetrance genetic variants or polymorphisms to the risk of sporadic cancer development remains unclear. Studies of the complex somatic genetic events that take place in the emerging cancer cell may aid the search for the more elusive germline variants that confer increased susceptibility. Insights into the molecular pathogenesis of cancer have provided new strategies for treatment, but a deeper understanding of this disease will require new statistical and computational approaches for analysis of the genetic and signaling networks that orchestrate individual cancer susceptibility and tumor behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalNature genetics
Issue number3S
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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