Leading-Edge Technology to Guide Cancer Treatment

Lieb is using a novel, low-cost technology developed by his lab that can identify precursors of DNA ON/OFF errors, which in turn can help identify different types of a given cancer -- even if they look the same under a microscope. They are testing this approach on 100 breast cancers.

Jason Lieb, PhDJason Lieb, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of biology and Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, conducts research on how genes are turned "ON" and "OFF" at the right place and time. Understanding these issues is very important to cancer, since having the wrong genes ON or OFF at the wrong time is characteristic of every cancer type.

Lieb is using a novel, low-cost technology developed by his lab that can identify precursors of DNA ON/OFF errors, which in turn can help identify different types of a given cancer -- even if they look the same under a microscope. They are testing this approach on 100 breast cancers. If the results turn out as they expect, they will submit a much larger proposal to the National Institutes of Health and work toward methods that can help make sure women receive the medicine that is most likely to work for their breast cancer type.

Being able to determine the entire DNA sequence of an individual's cancer - something that was only dreamt of five years ago - may soon be the basis for diagnosing cancer and guiding its treatment. Advanced sequencing that works rapidly and efficiently is expensive, and currently only the most "elite" hospitals and universities have been able to invest in this forward thinking technology.

Thanks to UCRF support, UNC has purchased revolutionary, state-of-the-art high-throughput DNA sequencers. Lieb explained, "Using both sequencers we can sequence up to 6 billion DNA bases per week, twice the number of bases in the human genome, which took 10 years to sequence. It's like the difference between a bullet train and a horse-drawn carriage."