The holistic approach of genomics allows us to look at complex diseases in a whole new way. Cancer is an example of a disease process that can be better understood using genomics. Unlike diseases that are completely genetic (progressive retinal atrophy, for example), the development of cancer is multifactorial. While we have identified genes that predispose to cancer, genetics alone can’t account for all of the cancer risk an individual faces, or the diversity in the disease itself. Genomics is a better way to study complex diseases such as cancer since it includes not just identification of genes, but also studies the way genes interact with each other, how one gene might affect more than one trait, and the function of genes once they’re expressed.
In addition to using genomics to help identify risk factors for cancer, it also can help guide treatment. By comparing the genome of cancers cells to that of healthy cells nearby, scientists can identify precise targets for anti-cancer therapies that maximize toxicity to tumor cells while minimizing damaging effects on the rest of the body.
The samples collected from your dogs will allow Golden Retriever Lifetime Study scientists to better characterize the genomes of your dogs as well as identify potential targets for prevention and treatment. Of course, genomics is only part of the story. Genes code for a variety of proteins that perform important functions in our dog’s bodies. In the next issue we’ll present the basics of transcriptomics (how genes are expressed) a topic of particular interest to researchers seeking to understand the processes of cellular differentiation and carcinogenesis.
Did you enjoy reading about genomics, but want a refresher about genetics? Check out this article in our previous newsletter.